A Styrofoam-recycling business called Styrecycle is opening its doors in Hamtramck this month, making a hard-to-find green business easily accessible to Metro Detroiters.
At first Styrecycle will specialize in recycling Styrofoam products, employing a team of about half a dozen people at its facility at 3901 Christopher St. The 3-month-old company expects to extend its reach to other hard-to-recycle products this year, a move that could mean expanding its workforce to two shifts that employ a dozen people.
"We're going to build this into a recycling center for problematic things in the waste stream, like Styrofoam and plastic bags and packaging material," says Mark Haron, director of Styrecycle. "We're looking at recycling tires by the end of the year."
What to do with Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene foam, is one of the big issues for the waste-stream industry. It is not biodegradable and expands when it comes in contact with water. That means it can take up an increasing amount of space in a landfill and can be lethal to animals that consume it by choking them or blocking their digestive systems.
Polystyrene foam products (think Styrofoam cups or packaging foam) are hard to recycle because they are often as light as they are bulky, making the economics of storing and transporting the material difficult. That's why polystyrene foam products aren't normally a part of curbside recycling programs and there are only a small number drop off recycling centers in Michigan that accept Styrofoam. Haron believes Styrecycle is the first polystyrene-foam-specific-recycling business in Metro Detroit and one of only about a dozen he can find in the U.S.
Haron has worked in the waste-stream business in Hamtramck for 25 years, operating everything from a scrap yard to machine-recycling companies on the city's south side. Styrecyle is now accepting clean, industrial- and commercial-grade, polystyrene-foam products from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. He expects to expand to all sorts of clean Styrofoam products (no food residue or tape) in a few months.
Styrecyle recycles polystyrene foam by putting it through a shredder and then sending it through a densifier. The densifier crushes the shredded Styrofoam into smaller, heavier blocks at a 50-1 ratio. Those blocks make storage and transportation of the polystyrene foam economical. Those blocks can then be broken down and recrafted into other plastic products, such as brooms, insulation or structural Styrofoam.
Styrecyle is in the later stages of testing out its equipment and processes. It plans to ramp up its operations by this spring.
"Our basic motto is go green and save green," Haron says. "We can save you money."
Source: Mark Haron, director of Styrecycle
Writer: Jon Zemke
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