Councils and communities save money and help the planet with expanded polystyrene (EPS) disposal.

Ecycle Solutions General Manager Chris Tangey is passionate about the recycling potential of EPS. Turning foam packaging into photo frames and building products – and saving organisations up to 70 per cent in disposal costs – reinforces the power of recycling.

‘EPS is a huge waste problem,’ says Chris Tangey. ‘As Australians consume more electrical equipment, the volume of foam packaging ending up in landfill has risen. This material is incredibly toxic and takes hundreds of years to break down.’

EPS is one of Australia’s least-recycled products. Foam packaging for white and brown goods is bulky, adds volume to landfill sites, and can blow away from sites, polluting waterways and endangering wildlife.

Ecycle saw a need to expand its ewaste service to EPS, says Tangey. ‘Companies need easier and cheaper ways to dispose of foam packaging, and so did their customers. We recognise that polystyrene recycling has a critical role in end-of-life solutions in ewaste.’

Ecycle distributes special EPS collection frames to its partner companies. Two-metre cubic bags of EPS are put in QLS Group trucks (Ecycle’s parent company) and returned to its depots.

Hot-compacting technology integrated into ecycle’s national network compacts the EPS to 1.2 per cent of its original volume. The EPS is then  sent overseas to make new products.

Fully recycled material is used in everything from sports gear to kids’ toys, outdoor furniture, flowerpots and building products. ‘It’s amazing to see a material that usually ends up in landfill and hurts the planet for hundreds of years have a second life,’ says Tangey.

Recycling EPS via ecycle is much cheaper than putting it in landfill. ‘Our research suggests it costs at least 70 per cent more to put EPS in landfill com,pared to our service,’ says Tangey. ‘And that doesn’t include the indirect costs of needing larger landfill sites or the long-term environmental damage.’

Ecycle works with nine recyclers around Australia, and does its own EPS recycling at its Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane depots. Ecycle expects to open other EPS recycling facilities in cities and regional towns in the next few years.

‘EPS recycling is a priority for Ecycle,’ says Tangey. ‘We’ve been ahead of the curve in EPS recycling, and want to add more facilities and work with more councils and companies in this area. It’s a natural extension of our current ewaste services.’

Tangey says that Ecycle’s ability to serve regional and remote councils on ewaste extends to EPS. ‘If we’re sending a truck to central Northern Territory to pick up ewaste, it’s easy to put bags of collected EPS in there, as well. We want to help councils and businesses in these areas to introduce and ewaste and EPS collection and recycling service.’

Tangey adds: ‘we can make it much easier for communities around Australia to get rid of EPS, saving them money and helping the planet at the same time. We all know EPS disposal is a problem but, until now, there has not been a specialist collection service for regional and remote areas. Ecycle is filling that gap for councils, and helping to rid landfills of toxic EPS.’

Originally published by the Australian Local Government Yearbook