What is EPE / PE foam?
EPE stands for Expanded Polyethylene. It is also Called PE (polyethylene) Foam. Chemists forgive us, but it’s basically flexible plastic with a bunch of air bubbles in it. Kind of like if soap suds were made of plastic and formed into convenient sheets or blocks. It’s very shock-absorbent, so it makes great packing material.
EPE is recyclable, but unfortunately many municipal recycling companies don’t have the facilities to process it. Fortunately there are some facilities around the US and Canada that accept EPE for recycling via mail.
Why do we use it?
We’ve tried a lot of packaging options, and we’ve been able to eliminate EPE from most of our products’ packaging, but in a few cases there just aren’t viable alternatives. We’d be looking at an increased risk of damage to the the product, which would mean increased waste. Weighing our options, we have decided to use EPE in a few of our heaviest or awkwardly-shaped items (most vulnerable to shipping damage), but we hope you’ll help us make sure that the foam finds its way to a recycling facility.
How do I find a recycler?
You should first check to see if there’s a facility in your area that might be able to accept your foam. Some will accept drop-offs free of charge, and some can schedule a pickup (usually for a fee). Make sure to check for minimum/maximum quantity, as some facilities only accept large amounts.
If you don’t have a spot nearby, you still have options. Packaging manufacturer Sealed Air has created a network of facilities across the country that accept EPE foam for recycling via mail. Visit Sealed Air Sustainability to learn more and find the mail-in location nearest to you.