A new grant program will help U.S. and Canadian organizations purchase the equipment needed to process and prepare expanded polystyrene for recycling.

The Foam Recycling Coalition has launched the new grant program, which will pay for equipment needed to process post-consumer expanded polystyrene (EPS) food service packaging, egg cartons, meat trays and protective packaging used for shipping fragile items.

Formed in 2014, the Foam Recycling Coalition is part of the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI).

“The Foam Recycling Coalition was put together to help educate people on how to recycle foam and the steps that they need to take, but also you have the grant program that’s part of that equation,” FPI President Lynn Dyer said in an interview with Plastics Recycling Update.

Grant amounts will range from an estimated $15,000 to $50,000, but will be determined on a case-by-case basis. No cash match is required as part of the program, but grant recipients may incur related costs, such as site preparation, conveying systems, electrical infrastructure, freight transportation or others, according to the FPI website. Grant award winners must also commit to collecting, processing and marketing EPS for a minimum of three years.

The issue of recycling post-consumer foam has come to a head after New York City opted to ban the material instead of attempting an ambitious recycling plan proposed by foam manufacturer Dart Container.

Dyer says the grant program is a real opportunity to help “dispel myths like we’re seeing out of New York City that you can’t recycle it and there are no end markets.”

To that end, grant money could pay for a densifier specifically tailored to compact the loose material into blocks for more efficient transportation and recycling. With price tags ranging from $18,000 a piece to more high-powered $50,000 models, densifiers are expensive but crucial: A truckload of baled EPS weighs 16,000 pounds, while a load of compacted foam can weigh up to 40,000 pounds.

“There’s no question that there’s a market for the material; however, what is potentially missing is the equipment that a MRF might need, for example, to make it economical,” Dyer said.

Without densifying the material, transportation “can get very expensive, because you’re shipping air,” Dyer said.

Both public and private sectors in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply for the grants. The organizations must be involved in managing residential curbside or drop-off programs, managing commercial recycling efforts or operating a MRF. Grants can be awarded to organizations that want to start an EPS recycling program or that want to augment an already-existing one.

The grants aren’t necessarily limited to purchasing equipment, Dyer said, and FPI will entertain other proposals that assist in EPS recycling.

Grant applications are due by March 16, 2015 and FPI hopes to offer the grants on an annual basis.