Expanded Polystyrene Australia (EPSA) has established a National Collection Network that provides businesses with recycling points for EPS (particularly packaging and building/construction applications). Recycling centres are located in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra. A service fee may apply for some products. Many EPSA members also accept clean EPS scrap for recycling.
In addition, there are other independent operators that accept EPS for recycling such as Ecycle Solutions which offers a national service, suppyling collection bags that are collected once filled.
Why Should I Recycle Polystyrene?
Expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as polystyrene foam, is a lightweight cellular plastic material consisting of small hollow spherical balls that is widely used as a packaging medium. EPS is uniquely recyclable and can be fully reprocessed and used to make new plastic products such as outdoor furniture and decking.
Recycling polystyrene keeps it out of landfill and the environment. It also reduces demand for petroleum or crude oil, which is used to make polystyrene. Despite 98% of the packaging being air, polystyrene takes up large amounts of space when sent to landfill where it takes hundreds of years to break down. Due to its lightweight, polystyrene in landfill can also be blown away and enter our waterways and natural environment.
With the Australian Government’s National Plastics Plan addressing certain problematic and unnecessary uses of polystyrene, the material is a priority concern for many businesses and councils. Under the plan, loose polystyrene foam such as packing peanuts and moulded polystyrene for protective packaging are being reviewed with the possibility of these items being phased out nationally.
Many states in Australia already have legislation prohibiting the use, sale, and supply of single-use polystyrene packaging such as food and beverage containers. Find out more about single-use plastics bans in your state or territory.
What Happens When It's Recycled?
In Australia, 56,000 tonnes of EPS was consumed in 2019-20. During the same period over 7,800 tonnes of EPS was collected and recycled.1
The collected EPS is fed into a granulation machine. The granulated material is compressed into continuous lengths and placed in pallets for shipping. Most 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.
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, outdoor furniture and decking, stationery products as well as plant pots and coat hangers.
Sustainable Packaging Alternatives
Sustainable alternatives to polystyrene packaging are now available, with many Australian businesses already using alternatives such as cardboard made from recycled materials.
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) can provide further advice to businesses on the packaging alternatives available. For more information refer to APCO’s Action Plan for Problematic and Unnecessary Single-Use Plastics Packaging.
More Information and Sources
1Australian Plastic Flows and Fates Study 2019-20.
Discover how businesses can keep plastics in use and out of landfill with our free toolkit, How to Reduce and Recycle Plastics at Work.