Polystyrene foam is completely recyclable and can be used to produce a number of plastic products. This diverts waste from landfill and reduces the demand for petroleum from which polystyrene is derived.
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Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), commonly known as polystyrene foam is a lightweight cellular plastic material consisting of small hollow spherical balls, widely used as a packaging medium. In 2009/2010 approximately 36,000 tonnes of EPS was manufactured in Australia. During the same period over 900 tonnes of EPS was collected and recycled. EPS is uniquely recyclable and can be fully reprocessed, which diverts waste from landfill and helps reduce demand on petroleum from which polystyrene is derived.
Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA) has established a National Collection Network with recycling centres located in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra. Produce boxes are accepted free of charge. However a service fee does apply to other products.
Many EPSA members also accept clean EPS scrap for recycling. In addition, there are other independent operators who are able to recycle EPS.
Please note the following products cannot be accepted for recycling: extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam including meat trays and egg cartons, disposable food service items such as cups or clamshell containers nor packing peanuts.
What Happens When Its Recycled?
The collected EPS is fed into a granulation machine. The granulated material is compressed into continuous lengths and placed in pallets for shipping.
At present, all EPS material recycled by the EPSA Collection Centres is exported for further reprocessing . However, EPSA is committed to working with Australian companies to develop a closed loop Australian based EPS recycling industry.
Once exported, the EPS material is then shredded and extruded to form general-purpose polystyrene pellets. This can then be used as a feedstock for applications such as synthetic timber, cd and video cassette cases, stationery products as well as plant pots and coat hangers.
Sustainable packaging alternatives
Some more sustainable alternatives to polystyrene packaging are now available.
Woolcool is an insulated packaging range made from waste wool which is a sustainable and highly effective natural insulation material.