Recycling polystyrene

Recycling polystyrene

A processing machine to enable more recycling of polystyrene is operating at East Gippsland Shire Council's Bairnsdale landfill.

Mayor, Cr Natalie O'Connell said to divert expanded polystyrene (EPS) from landfill, council’ s waste minimisation and sustainability team has invested in an EPS processing machine which compresses the polystyrene using heat. The product obtained during this process is then sent to a recycler to be used in picture frames, cornices and other materials.

“Council currently has a nine-year partnership agreement with Bairnsdale Recycling Enterprise Incorporated (BREI) who manage and run the Tip Shop at the Bairnsdale landfill,” Cr O’ Connell said.

“BREI has been proactively diverting reusable and resealable items from landfill and assisting council with mattress processing and recycling over the past two years. In what is a great outcome for both parties, we recently signed up BREI to manage and process the expanded polystyrene material.

“Both mattresses and EPS are voluminous commodities that are very difficult to compact thus taking a significant amount of airspace. It costs approximately $150 for every cubic metre of airspace filled at the landfill.”

Manager of BREI, Geoff Veness, said the strong partnership enables the voluntary community based social enterprise to reduce landfill and provide a valuable opportunity for locals who have had difficulty gaining employment.

“We are able to employ seven staff, as well as diverting more than 150,000 cubic metres of landfill each year. This new opportunity to recycle polystyrene will benefit the whole community.”

Cr O’ Connell said this new agreement to process EPS is another step not only to combat waste challenges, but to also build a stronger local economy and local solution to waste issues.

“This initiative will see waste diversion and a small step towards a circular economy,” Cr O’ Connell said.

Council has provided the EPS processing machine and $24,000 per annum in cash to operate and manage the EPS recycling.

Polystyrene is made into a foam material, (EPS), which is valued for its insulating and cushioning properties. Foam polystyrene can be more than 95 per cent air and is widely used to make home and appliance insulation, lightweight protective packaging, surfboards, foodservice and food packaging, automobile parts, roadway and road bank stabilisation systems and more.

In Australia about 45,000 tonnes of EPS is created and consumed each year. Much of this is embedded in long-term use (such as waffle pods used in housing construction and engineering / manufacturing components), however approximately 40 per cent (or 18,000 tonnes) is single-use or short-term packaging that can be recycled after use.

Australia currently only recycles about 27 per cent (4900 tonnes) of this EPS packaging annually.

PICTURED: Manager of Bairnsdale Recycling Enterprise Incorporated (BREI), Geoff Veness, and landfill operations officer, Brian Fields, with the recycling machinery.