This article was originally published by Sustainability Matters
The demand for Expanded Polystyrene is rapidly increasing, but businesses are failing to take responsibility for the recycling of this vital waste stream.
Businesses can no longer ignore Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) as a major waste stream. It is time that their social conscience drives the change needed to prevent EPS waste from continuing to fill Australian landfills.
Because of its excellent protection properties, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is the packaging material of choice for many businesses. Made of 2% plastic and 98% air, EPS reduces the cost of goods transported which helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it doesn’t help with the volume of waste sent to landfill.
The volume of EPS waste entering landfill is a grave concern for Australians as it increases each year as the consumption of packaged goods increased. Once in landfill, EPS waste takes hundreds of years to break down, which places additional strain on the already limited landfill space.
The Australian Packaging Covenant has recognised EPS as a priority waste stream and mandated to remove all packaging from landfill by 2025 to reduce this strain.
“Businesses need to prepare for the packaging ban before they are caught out and left scrambling,” said Chris Tangey, General Manager of Expanded Polystyrene recycler Ecycle Solutions.
South Australia has already implemented a landfill ban, with Victoria having confirmed that a similar ban will be introduced in the near future. It is only a matter of time before other states follow this lead.
“The responsibility of recycling Expanded Polystyrene falls on businesses to drive change,” said Tangey.
“By starting with businesses, a large percentage of EPS waste will be recycled, prompting customers who receive goods to follow suit.”
In the 2018/19 financial year, Ecycle Solutions helped 299 retail stores recycle their EPS waste. The volume of loose EPS waste collected from these stores equaled the volume that would fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Their simple yet sustainable solution for EPS waste removal and recycling aims to help businesses recycle right with no added effort or cost.
Ecycle Solutions has helped retailers to save up to 70% on retail packaging removal with EPS recycling.
“We have found by using [this EPS recycling service] we have reduced our skip bin [from being] emptied once a week to once a month resulting… [in] a saving of $1902 a year,” said Drew from Betta Home Living – a customer of Ecycle Solutions.
Once collected, Ecycle Solutions hot melts EPS waste on site, before sending it to be turned into a variety of household items.
“People and businesses don’t realise that EPS waste can be turned into a range of household items, from outdoor furniture and skirting boards, to picture frames and decking,” said Tangey.
Products made from recycled EPS waste maintain their durability and have made Expanded Polystyrene a product of a Circular Economy.
“To sustain the use of Expanded Polystyrene by businesses, all it takes is for them to partner with a recycling company who offers a simple EPS waste recycling collection service, like Ecycle Solutions,” said Tangey.
With no viable replacement for EPS packaging in sight, businesses must begin doing their part to reduce the environmental strain caused by EPS waste before they are caught out by the Australian Packaging Covenant’s mandate.