The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has been working with household waste recycling centres (HWRC) in England on an initiative that will enable more expanded polystyrene (EPS) to be collected and processed for recycling.
A new trial was launched with the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) on 8 November 2021. It was attended by representatives from the NLWA, the BPF, NLWA-owned LondonEnergy, and Greenbank Recycling Solutions, which provided the onsite compactors being used in the trial and is also managing the processing of the material.
EPS packaging is highly effective in protecting valuable electrical items such as televisions, microwaves and fridges as it is extremely lightweight as well as being water-resistant. It is also widely used as an insulating material in the construction sector, as well as in bicycle helmets, boxes to transport live organs, and other pharmaceutical packaging.
EPS is fully recyclable, but because it is 98% air, it provides unique challenges in collecting and reprocessing the material. Currently, 54% of the material is recycled in the UK, but it is hoped initiatives like this will enable far more of it to be captured from UK households.
The reprocessed material from the scheme will be made into insulation panels for use in construction. These panels reduce running costs and carbon emissions from buildings as well as the use of virgin material. The panels can be recycled again at the end of their life, making the process truly circular. The recycled material can also be used to make products like coat hangers, toys and picture frames.
Chair of the BPF EPS Group David Emes states:
“Working with local authorities in this way not only provides them with a potential income through the value of the EPS but also demonstrates to the general public that EPS is 100% recyclable.”