Recycling expanded polystyrene

Used polystyrene is being turned into new roads and products like picture frames thanks to a local initiative.

What kind of polystyrene can be recycled?

Expanded polystyrene is recyclable, and can be easily identified if the beads of foam can be easily seen when foam is broken. This includes packaging for small and large appliances and white polystyrene fish or fruit and vegetable boxes.

Of course it’s best to avoid polystyrene altogether if you can - it can take centuries to break down and poses major environmental problems, particularly to birds and marine life - but for those times where you can’t dodge it, there is a local recycling option.

How to recycle polystyrene

You can drop off domestic quantities of all clean white Expanded Polystyrene Foam at our Geelong Resource Recovery Centre. There is no charge.

It can’t be put into your kerbside recycling bin.

Some types of polystyrene cannot be recycled at our transfer stations. These include coloured foam, meat trays, foam wrapping, packing peanuts and bean bag beans, which should be put in your red rubbish bin.

How is polystyrene recycled?

The first part of the recycling process happens locally at GPD Industries in North Geelong, where around 85 cubic metres of polystyrene is processed every week.

It takes less than 10 minutes for a slab of polystyrene packaging to be melted down and densified before being sent off to be manufactured into a range of new products.

GDP provides jobs to people with disabilities as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The team sort the polystyrene into a conveyor belt, where it is crushed and then heated to 180 degrees. The heat turns it into a liquid, which oozes out of the machine into wooden moulds.

The end products are dense polystyrene blocks, the size of two shoe boxes, which are more brittle than regular polystyrene. If you dropped them, they would shatter! The blocks go on to other companies which turn them into soft-fall playground flooring, picture frames and building materials for roads and homes.

The lowest quality polystyrene, which is considered dirty or has ink mixed with it, is crushed into a bean bag-like mix, and then supplied to Newtown Concrete where it is mixed with concrete to create footings for fences as well as other products.

More polystyrene is now being recycled

According to Henry Barron, GDP Senior Supervisor, more polystyrene is now being recycled.

"The polystyrene recycling initiative has been running for several years now. People and businesses are feeling a bit more responsible and wanting to do the right thing," he said. "We can easily take on more, our gates are always open so everyone is welcome to drop it off."

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Page last updated: Thursday, 13 April 2023