EPSilyte helmet

At Epsilyte’s Ohio facility the company is re-pelletizing used PS into expandable pellets for the safety helmet market. | Courtesy of Epsilyte

Insulative material producer Epsilyte is ramping up its capacity for recycling polystyrene with investments in its Ohio facility.

Jon Timbers, chief sustainability officer, said the Piqua, Ohio extrusion facility is the company’s “center for recycling strategy.”

“We believe the safety helmet market has a lot of demand for recycled content and is really aggressively moving toward recycled content,” he said, adding that “so much of making a recycling system work is having a good end market.”

Epsilyte was formed in November 2020 with the purchase of a facility in Peru, Ill., followed by the Piqua, Ohio facility in May 2021 and a Montreal facility in October 2021, Timbers said.

Part of the production at the Ohio facility is re-pelletizing used PS into expandable pellets for the safety helmet market. The company does some helmet manufacturing in-house, but “most of our expandable resin is shipped to other helmet manufacturers,” Timbers said.

Just before Epsilyte purchased the facility, the previous owners had done a 180,000-square-foot expansion, so Epsilyte’s expansion investment will focus on new machinery and technology, Timbers said.

The purchases are not finalized, but he said the plan is to get melt filtration equipment so the company can handle some contamination in the material.

Right now, the plant is operating on the old owner’s model where 12 trailers are parked at other manufacturing facilities in a two-hour radius. When the manufacturers fill the trailer with used PS, they call Epsilyte to pick it up. Timbers said many forms of contamination, for example tape, have to be removed by hand.

The investment will allow the company to “remove some level of contamination with automation and grow our capacity to 20 times more than what we’re doing now,” he said, as the company looks to expand its sourcing model and buy from more brokers.

“I’d describe that model as a high level of control around the supply, with designated spots where we are collecting foam and we can pick the little pieces of tape off,” Timbers said. “To expand volume, we have to give up a little bit of that quality control.”

Looking forward, Timbers said he wants to keep working on POLYSOURCE, a resin the company produces with 50% post-consumer content that is certified by SCS Global, and to continue to reach for its goal to recycle 4 million pounds of PS by 2025.

“We don’t want to look at that as a ceiling,” he added. “Four million pounds is a floor, not a ceiling.”

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