The Flo Group and Versalis have released what they say is the first vending cup made from post-consumer recycled polystyrene, named the R-Hybrid.
The R-Hybrid is made by using thermoforming, or heating recycled polystyrene and then reshaping it. The product’s sandwiched structure contains recycled polystyrene (PS) on the inner layer and virgin PS on the outer layer, acting as a safe, functional barrier. The design of the new cup allows for a significant reduction of virgin PS feedstock by using the recycled materials, the companies said.
The R-Hybrid will replace Flo Group’s Hybrid cup, which saved more than 2,600 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere in 2022 due to its widespread use. The new model will enter the market at the end of the year.
Flo Group and Versalis carried out the project with Styrenics Circular Solution, a European association that comprises the whole styrenics polymer supply chain, and the Fraunhofer Institute, Europe’s leading applied research center. As a result of the partnership, a supply chain consortium was established, which developed a protocol for the use of recycled polystyrene in food packaging.
Innovations Made to Address Low Numbers in Plastic Recycling
Most unique about the new product is its ability to use recycled polystyrene, a lightweight plastic material once known for being difficult, or even impossible, to recycle. Polystyrene, commonly referred to as styrofoam, can now be reused effectively in the new product.
“The R-Hybrid project is strategic because it finally opens the door to the reuse of polystyrene in food containers and ensures that it retains its original value,” said Erika Simonazzi, marketing manager of the Flo Group. “There are also numerous advantages offered by the new R-Hybrid cups as an even more sustainable solution than the traditional Hybrid, of which they are the natural technological evolution. The new R-Hybrid combines the benefits of a reduced carbon footprint and the effective reuse of post-consumer plastic that is put back into circulation through the creation of new cups.”
In recent years, plastic recycling has been scrutinized for being largely ineffective, as only about 9% of plastic is recycled globally. Various innovations in plastic recycling, such as this one, have been implemented as an attempt to increase the type and amount of plastic that may be successfully recycled. Recent developments include new systems that can address colored plastics, the creation of compostable bioplastics, and even dissolving plastic with electricity.