Here at rucomfy, one question we often receive is regarding the recyclability of bean bags. As a company who recognises the importance of being environmentally friendly, we understand the concerns of our customers. One of the most common misconceptions surrounding bean bag furniture is that the filling used is non-recyclable. While the filling material used in our bean bag products, is made from expanded polystyrene (EPS), it still can be recycled or reused in a number of ways. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or Poly Bead as it is sometimes known, is a light yet rigid foam which is widely used for many different purposes in many different industries. From containers for fresh fish, protecting electrical consumer goods, insulation for homes and obviously, bean bags...there's many uses for EPS!
High quality bean bags, such as ours here at rucomfy, use virgin expanded polystyrene bead, which is top quality, freshly manufactured bead. Due to its high resistance, EPS can also be found in many safety products which require efficient shock absorption. Along with being extremely lightweight and mouldable into almost any shape or form, EPS is the ideal solutions for crash helmets and children's car seats.
How is EPS Manufactured?
EPS is made from expandable polystyrene, which is a hard plastic that contains an expansion agent. This expandable plastic is derived from the processing of hydrocarbons during separation and refining into fuels such as petrol, diesel and kerosene along with various lubricants and waxes. The production of plastics account for 4% of all products used in this process with EPS making up less than 1%. Expandable Polystyrene is heated up to 100° C and allows the raw plastic material to form into beads and retains a small pocket of air inside. The bead then goes through a cooling and drying process and subsequently creates a vacuum in the centre, allowing for greater elasticity and expansion. During this manufacturing process. no solid waste is created and any leftover material is returned to the production process until all waste material has been used. For the production of EPS, the main energy source is steam produced by the burning of natural gas. The water used to generate the steam is minimal and is reused multiple times. The overall process has very low pollution levels from emissions generated from the burning of natural gas.
Recycling Bean Bag Beads
Even though EPS is 100% recyclable, regular recycling collections within the UK is still not standard practice. Despite this, tens of thousands of tonnes are successfully recycled every year. Where EPS is collected, in countries such as Japan, Korea and Germany, it's often reformed and reused within the construction industry. Another possible method of recycling is to burn waste EPS. This is an extremely efficient method of using the beads' energy potential to create heat. However, the burning of EPS must be done at extremely high temperatures (up to 1000° C) and be supplied with plenty of fresh air. The heat generated during this process emits zero toxic emissions and very little non-toxic ash. Even though most local recycling centres will not accept bean bag filling beads, there are other ways that EPS can be recycled.
Use in your pot plants
Bean Bag filler is an excellent alternative to pebbles or gravel when used as drainage to your pot plants. Simply line the base of your plant pots and then cover with soil as normal. EPS is light and airy so is ideal if you plan to move your plants regularly as it’s lighter than regular drainage material.
The use of EPS will not harm your plants and flowers as it is 98% air, with all other components are chemically inactive, do not release any harmful gases or toxic chemicals.
You can reuse your old bead in your craft projects. Added to old t-shirts or football shirts with the openings sewn shut, makes for excellent cushions for children's bedrooms or even filling up old socks and decorating them can result in fun draught excluders.
EPS is an excellent filling for packages and parcels to prevent any damage during shipping. If you are concerned about the poly bead clinging to your item due to static, you could always fill up old carrier bags beforehand and use those.
Re-purpose the filling in other beanbag furniture
Over time, your bean bag can become flat and not appear to be as full as it once was and may require topping up or completely replacing the bean bag filling. After purchasing your replacement / top-up bead, you could save your old bead and reuse it in other bean bag furniture you may own. Not only is this a great money-saver but also reduces the amount of waste sent to a landfill.
Another option is to purchase a cover-only bean bag and fill it with your old EPS bead, again saving you money and reducing your environmental impact.
EPS Recycling Centres
While many local recycling centres will not accept polystyrene products, there are a number of facilities across the UK who now do. To find a recycling centre near you, follow this link.