You may not realise it but expanded polystyrene (EPS) is all around you. It’s found in the outside housing of most computers, the protective packaging of fragile items and squishy foam chips on top of some food deliveries.
It is not accepted in Council kerbside recycling bins. Fortunately, there is a network of companies around New Zealand that will recycle it into products like shoe heels and picture frames.
Find a Recycler
If you’ve ever ordered a flat-pack piece of furniture or bought ice cream in a box, then you’ve probably come across expanded polystyrene (also known as EPS) packaging. It’s the lightweight, durable material that cushions and protects items during transit, as well as a key ingredient in many foam single-use products, including coffee cups.
You’ll usually find EPS marked with recycling code number 6. It’s not taken in curbside bins and must be recycled via special facilities, unlike other plastics like water and soda bottles, which are easier to isolate because they are discarded alongside paper and other recyclables.
To recycle EPS, the material is sprayed with limonene – an organic citrus peel extract that turns it into a liquid, then pressed into blocks. This can then be used to make insulation and other products, or burned in waste-to-energy programs. You can find a list of places that accept loose EPS online. Alternatively, check out the Recycler Directory or call your local shipping store to see if they accept loose Styrofoam.
Contact a Recycler
The Recycler Directory is an online database that lists recyclers and makes it easy for businesses to find markets for recyclable materials. It’s available to all Auckland residents.
The polystyrene recycling Auckland programme has been designed to help businesses and households in northern Auckland get rid of their soft plastic packaging waste. It’s a new initiative for the region. Matt Strong from interior fit-out firm Finess Interiors set up the first collection point at Mangawhai ITM and now has plans to extend it north of Auckland.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) takes up a lot of space in landfill but it doesn’t decompose, and the material is lightweight enough to be blown away by our windy Aotearoa conditions. It can also float in waterways and storm drains, eventually ending up in the ocean, where it’s ingested by seabirds and other marine life, causing them illness or even death. This is the kind of problem that can be prevented if more people recycle their EPS waste and it’s easy to do with a little help from the Recycler Directory.
Get a Quote
Polystyrene, or Styrofoam, is found in the outer packaging of TV and fridges, in a variety of kitchen appliances, surfboards, boogie boards, children’s toys, food trays and even the squishy foam chips used to protect fragile items at your local supermarket. Sadly, it’s also the stuff that makes up most of the litter in our oceans – along with plastic bags and other hard plastic waste.
But it’s good news, because Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is 100% recyclable. It’s a versatile material that can be melted down and turned into new products including insulation for residential and commercial building slabs, engineered timbers and pens.
Northland businesses and householders can now recycle EPS waste through a new collection point at Mangawhai ITM. The service is run by interior installer Matt Strong of Finess Interiors, who developed the collection system after seeing a need in his own business. He and his fleet now transport the collected EPS waste themselves from the two-cubic-metre bin outside the ITM to Auckland, where it’s recycled by the Eco-Logics team at Expol. The polystyrene is then repurposed into new products including a range of retaining wall systems like Styrodrain, as well as Eco-Logics’ insulating slab sheets and tuff pods.
Book a Collection
There is a wide range of places to recycle your Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) waste in New Zealand. These are usually businesses that already collect other types of waste like electrical goods, VHS cassettes, batteries, toner cartridges etc.
Note that EPS is not recyclable via Council kerbside recycling bins. These are collected and sorted by machine and need to be clean and free of food waste, residue and dirty nappies. These items contaminate the recycling and can harm sorting machines at the very first stage of processing.
These contaminated items also make the recycled material less valuable. You can find more information about what is and isn’t recyclable in these Auckland Council resources.
Inorganic waste collection is still available from Council for householders but you will need to book this service. Junk Run offer a private alternative to this service and can help with any inorganic rubbish or junk removal. Call them on 021 586 544 or see their booking page for details.