Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is 100% recyclable.
Over the past decade, EPSA has established the REPSA National Collection Network to facilitate EPS recycling in Australia.
During 2009/2010 over 3,000 tonnes of EPS was recycled throughout Australia.
How is EPS recycled?
Ideally EPS should be separated before it enters the waste stream to minimise contamination and so as to not take up bin capacity for other recyclable materials. EPS scrap must be segregated from other materials in the waste stream before it can be recycled.
Since EPS is lightweight, transportation cost is a major component of its recycling. The material handling requirements for EPS scrap are usually determined by the recycler. Most commonly EPS scrap is either bagged in loose form or baled prior to transport. In recent times, businesses that utilise a lot of EPS packaging have proactively worked with recyclers to assist with transportation and collection costs.
The collected EPS is fed into a granulation machine. The granulated material is then fed to a hopper where it is stored before being compressed into continuous lengths. This compressed material is broken into lengths suitable for palletisation. Once palletised the material is ready for shipment.
At present, all EPS material recycled by the REPSA Collection Centres is exported for further reprocessing as there are such small quantities of EPS waste generated in Australia and very little domestic demand for the product. However, EPSA is committed to working with Australian companies to develop a closed loop Australian based EPS recycling industry.
Converting EPS into other products
Once exported, the EPS material is then shredded and then extruded to form General Purpose Polystyrene (GPPS) pellets. This can then be used as a feed stock for applications such as synthetic timber, cd and video cassette cases, stationery products as well as plant pots and coat hangers.