Common Expanded Polystyrene Products That You Can’t Recycle (And Why)

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For the most part, expanded polystyrene recycling (EPS) efforts are successful. Unfortunately, not all EPS products can be recycled. If these items are put into recycling skips for collection, they will need to be removed during the sorting process as they could contaminate the rest of the batch.

Let’s take a look at some common EPS items that cannot be recycled and why. This knowledge will help ensure that you contribute to a more efficient and effective EPS recycling process.

Food Packaging

While food containers ‒ such as fast food takeaway containers or meat trays used in supermarkets ‒ are made from EPS, they are made from a very tiny densified bead, which is too small to granulate.

Additionally, they become contaminated with food particles and residues, leading to the growth of potentially dangerous bacteria. The nature of EPS is such that it is absorbent, which makes it nearly impossible to clean once it has been contaminated by these particles.

Recycled EPS that contains these contaminants can not be used to make new products. Moreover, it could be imbued with persistent foul odours, rendering the recycled product unusable.

Peanut-Shaped Loose Foam Packaging

Recycling peanut-shaped loose EPS packaging is possible, but it requires a hot melting machine to do so. Packaging peanuts presents a number of difficulties when it comes to recycling.

The biggest problem is that they take up a large of space in connection with their weight, making it challenging for waste companies to haul, store and sort. They are also generally sprayed with an anti-static agent, which contaminates them.

Due to these issues, most states across Australia have banned foam peanut packaging.

EPS Products With Labels, Straps, Wrappings, Or Trape Attached

The key to successfully recycling EPS products is to ensure the proper separation of materials right from the start. Many people deliver EPS products to recycling pickup points or depots with labels, strapping, or tape still attached. These attached materials are usually made of other kinds of plastic or paper.

Since these attachments are not made of the same material, they cannot be incorporated into the EPS recycling process, lest their presence compromise the quality of the recycled product. Be sure to remove all labels, tape, strapping, and wrapping before dropping them off for collection.

Dirty Or Coloured EPS Products

When EPS products are dirty, it makes the recycling process complicated because they are extremely difficult to clean. When dirt or cement is incorporated into the recycled material, the grains can contaminate the entire batch and undermine its chemical composition.

Moreover, coloured polystyrene products can cause batches to be contaminated and undermine the quality of the resulting recycled products. This is because it is very difficult to separate the dyes or pigments used in colouring the EPS.

Here at StyroCycle, we specialise in raising awareness about expanded polystyrene recycling and supporting its implementation to contribute to a greener Australia. Contact us today to find out how you can play a meaningful role.

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