Behind Polystyrene Recycling
For many years polystyrene was the bane of environmental concerns. It was bulky, it floated on water and clogged waterways, and it was harmful to wildlife. Worst of all it was understood to be non-biodegradable, and basically hard to get rid of. But this has changes with recent discoveries and modern technologies.
Polystyrene is produced from tree sap, though it is processed, which is why it will not naturally decay over time. When we think of polystyrene we usually think of the white foam version used to pack boxes, or provide insulation. But this is only one variety, the type expanded with air bubbles. Other types of polystyrene are not expanded, often being used for food containers, utensils and other items like CD cases.
Today there are several ways to deal with old polystyrene. It can be collected for disposal or recycling. But at present in Australia less than one third of expanded polystyrene foam from packaging is recycled. This is partly because collected foam is contaminated when it is mixed in with other materials.
Some options for Polystyrene Include:
Mealy worms – It was discovered that this type of worm can live on polystyrene. The worms are used for fishing bait or food for reptile and birds. The only limit here is the amount. It takes a large number of worms to eat a small amount foam, so it may be impossible to recycle the entire world’s supply of polystyrene.
Recycling and Re-purposing – Old foam polystyrene can be processed to make anything from plastic furniture to eating utensils. This requires that the material be pure when it is collected and processed. While not all polystyrene could be repurposed this is still one way to deal with a significant portion of the problem.
Compression and Disposal – One issue with foam polystyrene is that it is so bulky and therefore costly to transport. Machines that compress the foam, up to 90%, make transportation and disposal of the foam much easier.
Compressed foam can still repurposed for making furniture and other items.
Have your company’s Polystyrene waste compressed before it is recycled. This reduces the transport time and cost.