EPS recycling – the facts
New EPS Recycling technologies are emerging
Projects are being evaluated to enable EPS polymers and can be broken down to provide the feedstocks for new polystyrene. New technologies, such as PSLoop and POLYSTYVERT, are emerging.
Two new facilities opened in 2018.
EPS is recyclable
EPS Recycling is most successful in commercial waste streams with large volume sources of EPS waste.
Creative problem-solving for challenging recycling scenarios means PC World, John Lewis and Billinsgate Fish Market are committed to long-term EPS recycling.
The majority of EPS waste is currently collected and converted into Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) insulation panels for the construction industry, reducing the environmental impact of building.
The current UK EPS packaging recycling rate is > 50%. Discussions with local authorities are underway to improve recycling from household waste.
EPS endmarkets show consistent growth
EPS is used as recycled content in new EPS packaging and other EPS products including insulation products for the construction industry.
Material substitutions are risky
On a global scale, environmental costing indicates that alternatives to plastics may cost $400 to $500 billion more (4 to 5 times more).
Meat, fish and produce shipped in EPS have a longer shelf life, leading to less food waste. For more information on comparative analysis of fresh fish packaging.
EPS is recognised the safest way to transport temperature-controlled and medicines and even human organs.
EPS is more sustainable than most people imagine
Recent studies show that heavier alternatives to lightweight plastics can be significantly increase raw material requirements, energy consumption and landfill volume.
Litter problems are not material dependent
Improper disposal of any material contributes to litter, whether it is EPS or another material.
Health and safety
EPS is an organic polymer
Polystyrene is an organic compound consisting of hydrogen and carbon.
Polystyrene is chemically inert, being resistant to acids and bases but is easily dissolved by many chlorinated solvents and many aromatic hydrocarbon colvents.
There is very little residual styrene in EPS
The amount of styrene that may exist in finished polystyrene is extremely small – often lower than naturally-occurring styrene found in everyday food items such as coffee, strawberries and cinnamon.
All chemicals need to be assessed in terms of risk versus exposure. Risks can be zero, negligable or harmful.
EPS is safe
Polystyrene foam is approved for food contact by the FDA and other global regulatory services.
According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Admoinistration (NOAA), “although marine debris is a global issue, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the problem.”
- EPS recycling – the facts
- Environment facts
- Recycling post-packaging EPS
- Environmental performance
- BRE Green Guide
- Seafish: Alternative disposal of polystyrene fish boxes (pdf)
- Practicalities, Managing Waste & Energy Recovery
- Links to companies that sell recycled plastic products
EPS and the environment
- Currys PC World Collection of Customers’ White Goods Packaging
- John Lewis Collection of Customers’ White Goods Packaging
- Recycling at Billingsgate Fish Market