Polystyrene recycling on the rise

South Africa’s success with the collection and recycling of post-consumer polystyrene continues to grow. This is owing to combined efforts by collectors and recyclers around the country. In spite of the difficulty in recycling plastic, polystyrene figures have increased over the past eight years.

In spite of the difficulty in recycling plastic, polystyrene figures have increased over the past eight years

‘The applications and uses for recycled polystyrene continues to increase in South Africa thanks to the unique combination of little bit of innovation, a lot of hard work and the can-do attitude of entrepreneurs who see possibility and opportunity in the unlikeliest of places,’ says Adri Spangenberg, CEO of the Polystyrene Association of South Africa.
Last year, more than 5 000t of polystyrene were diverted from landfill and recycled into other products. These included seedling trays, retail coat hangers, cutlery, furniture components and picture frames.

There are currently 27 recyclers on record converting recyclable high impact and expanded polystyrene into raw materials in the country.

Spangenberg says the biggest and fastest growing end-market for recycled polystyrene continues to be the lightweight concrete bricks. This is because white, black and coloured food trays or takeaway containers can be used for this application.
She adds that last year’s amounts were quite impressive.

‘The lightweight of polystyrene makes it the packaging material with the smallest carbon footprint. We are currently working with role-players throughout the entire polystyrene value chain to find sustainable solutions to the problem of effectively moving air. By installing mobile balers and the ingot machine at some of our bigger collectors and recyclers, the volume of the material is greatly reduced. This makes it viable to transport,’ she concludes.