A lot of products today are made of polystyrene. See those styrofoam cups and take-out containers? They are made of polystyrene. And, those packing peanuts? Yup, polystyrene again.
As more and more of these products are being manufactured, there is also an increase in polystyrene waste. And, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Is polystyrene recyclable?”
In this article, we will discuss whether polystyrene is recyclable or not and some ways to properly dispose of these types of waste.
What Is Polystyrene?
Before we answer the question of whether polystyrene is recyclable or not, let us first discuss what this material is.
Polystyrene is a synthetic polymer made from monomer styrene. It is a lightweight, solid plastic that is widely used in packaging and insulation materials.
Because of its versatile properties, polystyrene is used in a variety of products, such as the following.
- Styrofoam cups and plates
- Take-out containers
- Packing peanuts
- Foam insulation
- Some types of plastic cutlery
- CD and DVD cases
- Disposable razors
- Styrofoam egg cartons
Polystyrene is also used in a variety of industries. It is commonly used in the food service, electronics, and construction industries, but it is also used in the automotive and medical industries.
Because of this, we would see a lot of polystyrene waste products almost anywhere.
Can You Put Polystyrene Wastes into the Recycling Bin?
So now, is polystyrene recyclable?
The answer to this question is not a simple “yes” or “no”. You see, there are two types of polystyrene: expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS). And unfortunately, only one of them is recyclable.
EPS is the type of polystyrene that is often used in packaging materials, such as styrofoam cups and take-out containers. This type of polystyrene is not recyclable. On the other hand, XPS is the type of polystyrene that is often used in construction insulation. This type of polystyrene is recyclable.
So, if you have EPS waste, you cannot put it in your recycling or compostable bin. However, if you have XPS waste, you can recycle it.
Why Is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Not Recyclable?
There are a few reasons you cannot recycle EPS. Here is why…
1. EPS is not biodegradable.
This means that EPS cannot be broken down by bacteria or other organisms. So, if it is dumped in a landfill, it will just sit there for years and years without decomposing.
In addition, EPS is not photodegradable. This means that it cannot be broken down by sunlight. So, if it is thrown away in the environment, it will just sit there and accumulate over time.
2. EPS is not easily melted down and reformed into new products.
EPS is made of small beads of polystyrene. These beads are bonded together with air pockets in between them. This makes EPS very lightweight and buoyant.
However, this also means that EPS is not easily melted down and reformed into new products. In order for EPS to be disintegrated, the small beads need to be separated from each other first. And this is a very difficult and costly process. As a result, most waste-processing facilities do not accept EPS because it is not economical for them to process.
3. EPS is often contaminated with food waste.
Even recyclable containers are difficult to recycle if they are contaminated with food waste. And, since EPS is often used for food packagings, such as styrofoam cups and take-out containers, it is often contaminated with food waste when it is thrown away.
When EPS is contaminated with food waste, it becomes even more difficult to recycle because the food waste needs to be removed first before the EPS can be melted down.
Creating an Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) Recycling System for Your Business
If you have a business that uses XPS, you will be glad to know that you can recycle it. However, not any method will do. You need to have the right polystyrene recycling system in place so that you can properly recycle such type of waste.
Step 1: Set up an in-house XPS waste segregation system.
You can do this by having designated recycling bins for your employees to use. Make sure that the bins are clearly labelled and easy to access so that your employees will actually use them.
For example, you can place a polystyrene disposal bin next to the regular trash bin in the break room. You can also put up signs or posters to remind your employees to put their XPS waste in the designated recycling bin.
This way, it will be easy for you to manage the XPS waste in your business.
Step 2: Find a waste disposal company to collect your XPS waste.
Once you have segregated your XPS waste, it is time to learn how to dispose of polystyrene from your business the proper way.
For starters, you need to find a recycler who accepts this type of waste. Not all recyclers accept XPS, so you will need to do some research to find one in your area. Once you have found a recycler, make sure to follow their guidelines on how to prepare the XPS waste for pick-up or drop-off. If you don’t follow their guidelines, they might not accept your waste.
Step 3: Implement an XPS waste reduction plan in your business.
Even if you have a recycling system in place, it is still important to reduce the amount of XPS waste that your business produces. One way to do this is to switch to more environmentally friendly packaging materials.
For example, instead of using styrofoam cups, you can switch to paper or reusable cups. You can also encourage your employees to bring their own reusable containers for take-out lunches.
By reducing the amount of XPS waste that your business produces, you will not only be helping the environment but you will also save money on disposal costs.
With these three simple steps, you can set up an XPS recycling system in your business and do your part in saving the environment. You can also seek the help of a specialist in polystyrene recycling Sydney or any other Australian city has to offer to provide you with the essential resources to effectively recycle this type of waste.
The Dangers of Improper Disposal of Polystyrene Waste
As we mentioned earlier, some polystyrene waste products are not biodegradable. This means that it can take years for them to disintegrate in landfill sites. As a result, polystyrene waste can accumulate over time and cause problems for the surrounding environments.
Also, when polystyrene is burned, it releases toxins into the air. These toxins can be harmful to human health. That is why it is important to properly dispose of polystyrene waste products to prevent such dangers from happening.
Some of the health conditions that are associated with exposure to polystyrene toxins include the following.
- Respiratory problems
- Reproductive problems
So, if you want to protect your health and the environment, it is important to properly dispose of and recycle polystyrene waste products. You can also find other ways to reuse polystyrene materials.
Q: How do I know if a product is made of polystyrene?
A: You can usually tell if a product is made of polystyrene by looking for the recycling symbol #PS on the packaging.
Q: Can I recycle polystyrene at home?
A: Yes, you can recycle polystyrene at home. However, you will need to find a local recycler who accepts this type of waste. Once you have found a recycler, make sure to follow their guidelines on how to prepare the XPS waste for pick-up or drop-off.
Q: What if I can’t find a local recycler who accepts polystyrene?
A: If you can’t find a local recycler who accepts polystyrene, you can try to reuse the material. For example, you can use it as packing material for shipping fragile items. You can also use it as insulation for your home or office.
Q: Is recycling polystyrene mandated by law in Australia?
A: No, recycling polystyrene is not mandated by law in Australia. However, some states and territories have their own regulations on how to properly dispose of this type of waste.
So, is polystyrene recyclable? At this point, you should already know which type of polystyrene you can recycle or not. If ever you have both types in your business, it is important to segregate them properly to avoid contamination.
Remember—improper waste disposal can cause serious environmental problems. And, these problems will not only have a negative impact on the health of both humans and animals but will also ruin your reputation as a business.
We hope this article has taught you something new about waste management. Do you have your own tips on recycling or disposing of this type of waste? Share them with us in the comments section below.
And, for more information that you can use to make your business processes more efficient, feel free to check out our other articles!