Polystyrene is a popular material for businesses. It’s affordable and versatile, with no other material able to do everything it can.
The problem is that recycling for polystyrene is not widely available, leading lots of polystyrene to go to landfill instead.
So, what can you do with your polystyrene?
What types of polystyrene are there?
The three main types of polystyrene are polystyrene plastic, polystyrene film, and polystyrene foam.
Polystyrene foam contains subcategories of expanded polystyrene or EPS, and extruded polystyrene or XPS.
Polystyrene products can be known as Styrofoam, but this is actually a brand name rather than the name of a material.
The most common polystyrene is EPS, which is used for packaging.
Is polystyrene plastic recyclable?
Polystyrene is recyclable; however, it is not often recycled.
The most widely recycled is EPS but other kinds are not as easily recycled because they are more difficult to break down, such as extruded polystyrene.
One estimate states Styrofoam can take up to 30% of space at some landfills and has a lifespan of 500 years.
Polystyrene also has to be free of contaminants to be recycled which can make it unlikely to reuse food packaging, however, in 2018, 52% of the UK’s polystyrene packaging production is made from recycled polystyrene.
Most local councils aren’t able to collect polystyrene, including Liverpool City Council.
How polystyrene is made
Polystyrene is made by distilling hydrocarbon fuels into lighter groups called “fractions”. Some are combined with other catalysts to produce plastics.
Why is polystyrene so popular?
Many businesses use polystyrene because it is affordable, versatile, and works efficiently.
Polystyrene is a “thermoplastic” meaning it reacts a certain way to heat. This feature makes it ideal for packing sensitive material such as food.
It can be used in many different ways and can be glued, sanded, and easily cut. Its flexibility makes it valuable in many industries as it is used in medical devices, packing material, and food containers.
It is an efficient and cost effective insulating material, which is why it so popular.
Is polystyrene environmentally friendly?
The manufacturing process does not include any CFC’s or HCFC’s, so it does not harm the ozone layer.
But, the use of hydrocarbons to make polystyrene release hydrocarbons into the air, which combine with other gases to create an air pollutant.
Polystyrene while recyclable, isn’t biodegradable. The less dense forms can disintegrate over time but this can lead to particles making their way into water and harming our oceans and marine animals.
Can you put polystyrene in the recycling bin?
No. You cannot place polystyrene in your recycling bins if you are a householder. If you are a business, you should check with your waste management company.
The best way to dispose of polystyrene is to first reuse it, or your waste management company may be able to collect it for you.
At Central Waste 95% of our material are recycled instead of going to landfill. This not only helps to protect the environment, but it saves your business money.
We provide bin collections for dry mixed recycling, single waste stream including paper, card, and plastic, food waste, and compact industrial and commercial waste.
How is polystyrene recycled?
There are three main ways that polystyrene can be recycled.
This process involves a machine called a granulator. Lighter density forms of polystyrene are put through the granulator, which separates it into tiny beads. The beads are then mixed with unused polystyrene granules.
The polystyrene keeps its strength and insulating qualities and can be used again.
Denser forms of polystyrene can be placed into a compactor that presses them together. Heavy bales are created which then go through a machine to shred them into new General Purpose Polystyrene Pallets.
A foam densifier can recycle expanded polystyrene. After being shredded, the foam is exposed to heat and pressure, which melts it into a paste. The paste is cooled into a block, which is shredded into new General Purpose Polystyrene pallets.
Challenges of recycling polystyrene
While polystyrene is a great material to recycle because it doesn’t lose its strength and other qualities, the facilities to recycle it aren’t widely available.
The recycling process for polystyrene can also be expensive, as can the cost of transporting pallets, which are heavy.
The importance of recycling polystyrene
When polystyrene is recycled, it can be made into new products.
It may be more difficult to recycle polystyrene than other recyclables, and it is easy to throw it into general waste. But, recycled polystyrene can be made into cups, toys, packaging, plastic furniture, and the pellets can be used for fence panels, plant pots, and even roof tiles.
Clean material can make new polystyrene boxes and slightly contaminated material can still be used by being compacted to make rigid plastic products.
By recycling or reusing your polystyrene, you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint, which is increasingly important to customers.
Alternative ideas to dealing with polystyrene
Unfortunately, at present, there are no substitutes for EPS and there is unlikely to be any change with this.
Instead of throwing your polystyrene into general waste:
- Reuse your boxes for packing material
- Break your polystyrene up and use it to line the bottom of plant pots
- Companies such as John Lewis created a take-back recycling scheme, collecting their customers white goods packaging.
Plastic waste collection
All sorts of plastics can be recycled from your business to reduce your waste management costs.
At Central Waste, we can recycle all plastics including beer crates, bulk bags, plastic pallets, and polymers.
If your business is in Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, Halton, or the surrounding area, we can provide you with a recycling bin collection on a regular basis.
We provide our customers with recycling bins free of charge and help you adhere to Environmental Health and Safety regulations.
We offer a range of bin sizes to suit you and help reduce your general waste costs.
If you would like to discuss how we can reduce your costs by recycling, contact us today.