Exchange Network for Expanded Polystyrene Bio-Shipping Containers

EPA Grant Number: SU835731
Title: Exchange Network for Expanded Polystyrene Bio-Shipping Containers
Investigators: Benson, Craig H.
Current Investigators: Benson, Craig H. , Middlecamp, Catherine , Lindstrom, Timothy , Hicks, Andrea , Markley, Andrew , Kooistra, Frank , Bradshaw, Sabrina , Baumann, Emily , Budke, Katelyn , Ottmann, Jared , Walsh, Jenna , Marten, Brooke , Cupp, David , Liang, Lulu , Conradt, Aaron , Markel, Tyler , Tijoe, Marco , McCall, Benjamin , Bartels, Bart , Harris, Olivia , Panganiban, Christy , Gatdula, Aaron , Peterson, Chelsea , Delgado, Maria , Bizot, Ray , Webb, Olivia , Tirakian, Colin , Xu, Hantao , Grego, Lorenzo , Juarez, Diana , Valko, Phil , Hage, Cassandra
Institution: University of Wisconsin Madison
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: II
Project Period: September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2016 (Extended to August 31, 2017)
Project Amount: $88,111
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2014) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , Sustainability


The objective of Phase II of this P3 project is to maximize EPS recycling and reuse on the UW-Madison campus and implement the system we developed and optimized in Phase I at two other research universities. We intend to show that the success of the UW-Madison operation was extraordinary and that this program could be replicated at any large research institution. To help empower the public divert more EPS shipping containers (and EPS in general) from the landfill we will set up a website that will serve as a clearinghouse for EPS reuse and recycling opportunities nationwide.


UW-Madison Expansion. Reuse and recycling rates will increase on the UW-Madison campus by expanding EPS collection locations to serve all campus buildings where EPS waste is generated. University staff will be informed about the program through campus press releases, emails, and informational posters. A portion of the boxes that are collected through UW-Madison’s SWAP and the biotech shipper programs will be transitioned to a non-profit sales model. Revenue collected from these programs will be used to defray collection costs.

New Collection Programs. New EPS reuse and recycling programs will be implemented at Washington University of St. Louis (WUSTL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). These institutions were chosen for two reasons. First, like UW-Madison they have significant biological research programs that have resulted in many local small and medium sized biotechnology companies. Second, they have different biotech shipping operations nearby. Sigma-Aldrich is in St. Louis (large supplier) and Sony Biotechnology is in Urbana-Champaign (small suppliers). Thus, the effectiveness of the UW-Madison program can be tested under different conditions.

Implementation of an EPS Recycling Website. A web-based clearinghouse website for the reuse and recycling of EPS containers will be developed that provides the closest recycling drop-off location and as well as instructions for setting up a reuse and recycling program.  Website users will be able to add to the database of drop-off locations and add their own instructions and lessons learned in a manner similar to Wikipedia. As more recycling and reuse programs come on line, users would be able to add them to the database.

Expected Results:

Disposal of shipping containers at UW-Madison, Washington University of St. Louis (WUSTL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will be reduced dramatically, and reuse will increase. A network of industry partners will evolve that will expand the exchange network. These activities will serve as an example of how others can set an exchange program on campus and with local industry.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Reuse, recycling, expanded polystyrene, insulated shipping containers, biotech, exchange

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • Final Report

  • P3 Phase I:

    Exchange Network for Expanded Polystyrene Bio-Shipping Containers  | Final Report