57  Expanded polystyrene

In its solid form, polystyrene is one of the denser plastics, used as an inexpensive glazing material and for a wide range of moulded products. The expanded form, however, is completely different: it weighs almost nothing and provides an extremely efficient packaging or insulating material.

Huge volumes (but not weights) arise as packaging waste, and as a component of street litter. Recovery and recycling is being carried out in many places in the UK, but its low density precludes long distance transport (a fully laden 40 tonne truck would carry considerably less than one tonne unless there is sufficient material present to justify conversion into briquettes prior to travel). Consequently most recycling is of relatively clean industrial and commercial waste reconstituted to its solid form and recycled into new EPS insulation or packaging, or moulded products such as CD and video cases, coat hangers, plant pots, simulated slate roof tiles, and 'hardwood equivalent' furniture such as picnic benches, trellis and picture frames. 

Larger amounts of material can be collected free, but collection networks for less pure, post consumer material are undeveloped.  However, it is welcome that in June 2004, several EPS recycling points opened across the UK for local consumers and small businesses to take used EPS.  The nearest to the south of England are in Northampton and Wales (details on EPS website - see below).  Note that it is bad for the environment to drive long distances to a recycling point.  EPS is an inert, stable material, and it is claimed that it may be safely landfilled.  

Possibilities for local substitution of secondary materials include:

Also see
Industrial plastic scrap (46) 
Plastic containers and film (56)
Reclaimed plastic composite products (340)
Legal aspects of waste (Packaging Waste Regulations) (500)

Alphabetical list of organisations

A & M Insulation

Tel 01744 886111 Fax 01902 865832
Environmental House, Sandwash Close, Rainford, ST HELENS, Merseyside WA11 8LY

Recover solid and expanded polystyrene and other plastics nationwide for processing into 'Styrafil' insulation material and recompounded moulding pellets.

British Plastics Federation (BPF)

Tel 0207 457 5000 Fax 0207 457 5045  
Website www.bpf.co.uk  Email imcilwee@bpf.co.uk
6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, LONDON EC2A 3JE  
Contact Iain McIlwee, Business Services Manager

Trade association of UK plastics industry (80% of turnover).  Membership includes polymer producers, suppliers and processors, additive and machinery suppliers and manufacturers.  Advice and information on, and promotion of the plastics reclamation industry.  Website carries useful information on processes and applications, and an online directory of manufacturers and recyclers of plastics.   The Plastics and Rubber Advisory Service (09061 908070) is at the same address, offering expert advice on plastics use, material selection, process selection and design - lines open 10 - 1 and 2 - 4.30 on Tue, Thu and Fri, calls 1.50 a minute.  Q & A answer section on website.  (Updated Oct 2004)

Centrol Recycling Group
Tel 01925 227000  Fax 01925 227840
Email recycle@centrolgroup.co.uk   Website www.centrolgroup.co.uk 
8A Brindley Road, Sutton, ST HELENS, Merseyside WA9 4HY

Recycler of paper, card and plastics including polystyrene, collecting nationally. Recycles over 300 tonnes of polystyrene pa from Comet Stores, to be turned into garden furniture supplied to B & Q - an internal recycling loop within Kingfisher group. Offers recycling consultancy service. Opened new plants in Hatfield and Bristol during 2000.  (Updated Feb 2001)

Tel 01403 791717   Fax 01403 791718
Email aseaton@cordek.com  Website www.cordek.co.uk
Spring Copse Business Park, SLINFOLD, West Sussex RH13 9SZ
Contact  Alistare Seaton

Collects and processes EPS to manufacture moulded EPS block and sheet for construction industry.  Reuses polystyrene as a filling for engineering products.  Can only accept relatively small quantities of clean material from businesses in surrounding area.  (Updated Oct 2004)

ECAP Ltd (formerly ECA Plastics)
Tel / Fax 0208 870 8846  Mobile 07798 601 622
Email edwardclack@aol.com  
298 Trinity Road, LONDON SW18 3RG
Contact  Edward Clack

Organises an expanding national collection scheme from London, Bristol and Leeds of large volumes of waste plastic packaging from retailers and warehouses, recovering and recycling  post-consumer polyethylene and polypropylene film packaging.  Will collect baled loads of over 5 tonnes. Labels are removed and materials sorted to single polymer at Thetford and Cambridge.  Also recycles moulded sandwich trays from supermarkets - mainly HIP (High Impact Polystyrene).  (Updated July 2004)

EPS Packaging Group 

Tel 0207 457 5014  Fax 0207 457 5045
Email info@eps.co.uk  Website www.eps.co.uk  
126-128 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, LONDON SW7 4ET
Contact  Environmental Affairs Manager

Provides information and advice on setting up expanded polystyrene (EPS) recycling schemes.  Fact sheets, case studies and printed literature.  Website has map with contact details of recyclers (stating whether they take compacted or uncompacted EPS), and lists suppliers of EPS packaging.  Some of these reprocess EPS into pellets that can be used for coat hangers, picture frames or replacement hardwood.  Some recyclers will collect uncompacted EPS free, and recycle it into insulation board for construction - but you have to store up enough boxes to fill a truck: they should be palleted and wrapped in plastic film.  EPS Packaging Group works to promote expanded polystyrene for packaging and insulation, and to increase its recycling.  (Updated Sep 2005)

EPS Recycling International
Tel 0207 457 5014  Fax 0207 457 5045  
abarnets@bpf.co.uk  or  info@epsrecycling.org 
Website www.eps.co.uk  or  www.epsrecycling.org/pages/intr.html  
EPS Information Service, 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, LONDON EC2A 3JE

The International EPS alliance is an industry federation comprising EUMEPS Packaging (Europe), AFPR (America), and AMEPS (Asia). 
Website details four main waste reduction options for EPS packaging - reduce, reuse, recycle and 'recover' (ie incinerate).  It explains 4 ways of mechanically recycling EPS; how most recycling schemes work: compaction, collection, granulation, blending and extrusion; and report on life cycle analysis.   Lists countries whose EPS Foam Packaging Associations have signed the International EPS Recycling Agreement, and states what this involves.  (Updated Oct 2004)

Flo-Pak UK Ltd

Tel 01280 703161 Fax 01280 701915
Boundary Road, BRACKLEY, Northants NN13 5ES

Collects and purchases post consumer compacted EPS material, which is dry and free from any contaminants, for processing into loose fill and wood sub-products.

Kay-Metzeler Ltd
Tel 01245 342100  Fax 01245 342123
Brook Street, CHELMSFORD, Essex CM1 1UQ
Email eps-reception@kay-metzeler.co.uk  Website www.kay-metzeler.com 

Collector and processor of EPS, for use in construction, furniture, packaging, scenery, sculpture, horticulture and agriculture.  Accredited recycler, recycling own waste EPS and that of customers.  Contaminated packaging such as fish boxes and mushroom containers can now be recycled.  Manufactures new 'Kay-Cel' products such as flooring, cavity wall insulation, roofing, seeding and bedding trays for horticulture, packaging for fresh produce, screen printing and package design service for trays and boxes, 'safe-fall' blocks to reduce building site injuries, 'Claylite' to protect building foundations, and loadbearing blocks for landscaping.  Claims EPS is more acceptable than packaging such as moulded paper pulp, in terms of air pollution, energy usage, water pollution, and global warming potential.  Part of the British Vita group.  (Updated Oct 2004)

Plastics and Rubber Advisory Service
- see BPF

Save Wood Products Ltd

Tel 01983 299935 Fax 01983 299069
Amazon Works, Three Gates Road, COWES, Isle of Wight PO31 7UT

Manufactures weatherproof maintenance-free hardwood substitutes from EPS waste in various standard sections and choice of finishes, with density and tensile strength comparable to spruce. Products can be engineered to specific requirements, and waste management solutions provided for other companies. Enquiries for licensing production processes are welcomed.

Tusarora Ltd

Tel 01604 752355 Fax 01604 759024
Cornhill Close, Lodge Farm Industrial Estate, NORTHAMPTON NN5 7UB

Recover clean EPS, foamed PE and PP. Supply EPS and foamed PE and PP products.