Can Foam Packaging Material Be Recycled?

Can Foam Packaging Material Be Recycled?


As a manufacturer of foam packaging, we get a lot of questions about recycling foam packaging materials. 

Can foam packaging material be recycled? Yes, it can! In fact, there are three main types of packaging foam used to protect items in shipping that can be recycled — Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam, Polyethylene (PE) foam, and Polyurethane (PU) foam.

If you’re a manufacturer using foam in your packaging process, there is likely an opportunity to gain a sustainability win by using recycled foam packaging. Keep reading to learn more.

Recycling Foam Packaging

Foam can be recycled to make a number of items we use every day — from picture frames to baseboards and much more. For example, foam can be recycled into insulation to maximize your home’s energy efficiency. It can also be turned back into packaging material to help protect fragile and breakable items.

Foam is often a lightweight packaging option because it offers cushioning and stability to protect products during transit. However, manufacturers and consumers often don’t realize that foam is recyclable; therefore, it ends up in landfills.

The Sierra Club reports that only about 6% of the foam used for consumer packaging is being recycled, while the overall rate, when you include industrial foam recycling, is just 12%. 

Also important to know is that foam packaging contains a percentage of plastics, which means it is not biodegradable. It will take hundreds, if not thousands of years, to biodegrade in a natural environment.

Therefore, we should all be chipping in to do more regarding recycling foam!

What Types of Foam Packaging Are Recyclable?

The three main types of foam used in packaging (EPS, PE, and PU) can be recycled. Learn more about how each is recycled and what it can become:

Recycling EPS Packing Foam

Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) can be recycled into general-purpose polystyrene to produce synthetic timber, coat hangers, cases for video cassettes, and more. 

Recycling PE Packing foam

Since polyethylene foam is class 4, it is 100% recyclable. PE is melted down, reused, and remolded into similar applications to the original use.

Recycling PU Packing Foam

PU packing foam is ground before reprocessing to create new products, such as stronger and more durable insulation, high-density panels, building materials for insulation, and new packing foam.

How to Implement Recyclable Foam Packaging

If you are a manufacturer using foam packaging in your pack-out process, your first step should be to contact your packaging partner, such as New-Tech Packaging, for guidance on how to become more sustainable in your packaging efforts. Sustainable packaging is a win-win for all as it allows both consumers and businesses to do their part in helping protect the environment.

At New-Tech, we design and manufacture custom-fit foam packaging, including a variety of eco-friendly solutions. We work with various foam materials to provide blocking and bracing, cushioning, void fill, and custom case inserts.

You can also find additional support on recycling foam by contacting the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.

Why Choose New-Tech For Your Foam Packaging Needs?

At New-Tech Packaging, our design and research teams are industry-leading experts, developing the best foam packaging and sustainable solutions on the market. Contact New-Tech Packaging today to request a foam packaging assessment and quote for your product.