Can Polystyrene Be Recycled? ♻️: At Waster, we pride ourselves on helping our small and medium customers boost their recycling and save as much money as possible. Some of the most common questions we hear include “Can I recycle polystyrene?” or “Can I put polystyrene packaging in my recycling bin?”

In today’s blog, we will cover these questions. Can you really recycle polystyrene? In this way, we can give you some food for thought on your recycling objectives.

>Download Now: Free PDF Business Owners Guide To Commingled Recycling Bin Services


A bit about how Waster can help your business in 2021

Waster works with small and medium Australian businesses to provide waste and recycling bin collections. Of course, we put a real focus on boosting your recycling to help you lower costs.

You can arrange all your recycling bin services through our online waste portal, including commingled recycling, cardboard recycling, and organic food waste bins.

We always look for new recycling options for small businesses, whether it be Terracycle boxes or an answer to the question of whether you can recycle polystyrene or not.

We perform our recycling and general waste services on 30-day rolling agreements. So, check out your options and waste management costs by pressing the blue button at the top or bottom of this page!

Can polystyrene be recycled


So, can you recycle polystyrene?

The simple answer to “Can you recycle polystyrene?” is yes. Polystyrene is a product that comes in a wide variety of forms and shapes. But as a type 6 plastic, we can recycle polystyrene in Australia.

The answer as to whether you can put polystyrene in your recycling bin or not is a bit different. Basically, it depends on the type of polystyrene.

According to an article done by Quality Logo Products on trying to recycle polystyrene:

“In 1839, German apothecary Eduard Simon accidentally came across polystyrene while preparing the medication. He isolated a substance from natural resin and didn’t realize what he had discovered. It took German chemist Hermann Staudinger to research this polymer and expand on its uses. “

“Since polystyrene is lightweight and easy to form into plastic materials, it also breaks effortlessly, making it more harmful to the environment. Beaches all over the world are littered with pieces of polystyrene, endangering the health of marine animals. Polystyrene accounts for about 35% of US landfill materials.”

It is now one of the most common types of plastic and is seen in nearly all areas of modern life in Australia.

This category of plastic is made up of polystyrene or styrofoam. It includes items such as:

  • Disposable coffee cups (these are the cheaper old-style ones, not the type you get from a coffee shop).
  • Plastic food boxes
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Packing foam
  • Packing peanuts (i.e. the small bits of plastic in a package to protect the contents).

In general, we can recycle these items to make products such as insulation, rulers, licensed plant frames etc.


Why is it difficult to recycle polystyrene?

Type 6 plastics are generally harder to recycle than some others. The recycling process involves considerable amounts of energy. So, avoid using these products if you can help it. After all, reducing it is better than recycling.

YouTube video


How can you recycle different types of polystyrene or Styrofoam?

You can generally recycle rigid items such as yoghurt pots and containers, plastic forks, spoons, knives etc. in your commingled recycling bin.

Expanded polystyrene (i.e. the light packaging material) is a bit different. We may know this item by the abbreviation EPS, an extremely light but bulky material.

It is so light as it is made up of c.98% air and only 2 per cent of actual plastic. However, due to its large size etc – Australia has only recycled small amounts of the product.

Can you recycle polystyrene in places like NSW? Well, according to the NSW EPA:

“In 2011, less than 10 per cent of expanded polystyrene (EPS) was recycled, being one of the most poorly recycled plastics in NSW. It is estimated that 12,000 tonnes of EPS are disposed of to landfill each year, taking up 240,000 cubic metres of landfill space.”

Unlike rigid polystyrene, you usually cannot put EPS in your recycling bin. Below, we explain why.


Can you recycle both polystyrene packaging and polystyrene foam?

As expanded polystyrene can be seen as a contamination in a commingled recycling bin, it can be trickier to recycle, though it is completely recyclable. It can transform into a product called general-purpose polystyrene to make items like coat hangers or flooring products.

According to Planet Ark:

“Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) generally cannot be collected in your council recycling service. Generally, only larger industrial quantities are recycled in Australia.”

“Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a lightweight, rigid cellular plastic that is used widely as a packaging medium. Its shock-absorbing characteristics lend it to uses as storage and transport of fragile and expensive items such as electronic equipment, chemicals and wines.”

Note that Styrofoam is a trademarked product made from polystyrene. Wikipedia explains:

“Styrofoam is a trademarked brand of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam (XPS), commonly called “Blue Board” manufactured as foam continuous building insulation board used in walls, roofs, and foundations as thermal insulation and water barrier.”

You can drop off expanded polystyrene for recycling in all Australian cities through a network run by Expanded Polystyrene Australia.

These facilities are capable of accepting all types of EPS from both packaging and building applications. To find out where the collection facility is in your state, visit the Expanded Polystyrene Australia website.


Recycling polystyrene: commercial collections for expanded polystyrene recycling

Waster can certainly help with your polystyrene recycling efforts.

Waster can provide recycling bin services for expanded polystyrene and soft plastics. Please contact us in this regard.

Soft plastics include items such as clear shrink wrap etc that are common in distribution centres and retail businesses.


Final thoughts on polystyrene recycling

You can certainly recycle both types of polystyrene (i.e. rigid and expanded).

It may take a little effort, but recycling will help the environment. Also, it will greatly reduce your general waste collection.

Expanded polystyrene is so bulky, that by recycling polystyrene, you could likely downsize your general waste bin and save lots of money!

For info on how to recycle various tricky items, see the Ted talk video below:

YouTube video


commingled recycling cta