Does Polystyrene Deserve Its Bad Rep?

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The word “polystyrene” has a bad rep. Seriously. With all the advances in eco-friendly products and peoples’ eyes being opened to recycling more in recent years, anything made from polystyrene tends to be associated with one-use only, landfill and generally being the black sheep of the packaging family. It’s an automatic assumption of many that if it isn’t cardboard, paper or made from a material like Low-Density PolyEthylene (LDPE) then it’s bad!

We’re here to tell you differently.

Obviously we can’t tell you that our Polystyrene boxes are 100% recyclable with household waste across the range – they’re not. However, both the Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) and Expanded PolyProPylene (EPP) boxes we sell across our different packaging solutions ARE recyclable, provided they are taken to the correct waste centre in your local area that has the equipment to recycle the material for reuse.

Granted, it is a bit of a pain in the derriere to have to take this type of material to a specialist centre instead of just putting it in our normal recycle bins – to that, we can only say, the Government is working on it (we hope!). In the meantime, don’t feel any polystyrene boxes or products have to be thrown into general waste – for a list of UK EPS recyclers, click here, or alternatively click here for a list of EPS recycling points.

Reusing Polystyrene

So, we’ve established that Polystyrene isn’t the baddie it’s made out to be from a recycling perspective (more ‘misunderstood’ than ‘Voldemort style’ evil), however, what about reuse?

Again, we do admit it’s not always the toughest, although EPP products are tougher and more durable, but all polystyrene products have a limit that is perhaps lower than other products for continued reuse. Now we’ve cleared that up, just what can they be reused for?

  • Like for like – if you’ve had products delivered in an EPS or EPP box, treat it with care and it can easily be reused for the same purpose. It won’t have an infinite reuse lifespan in this capacity as every delivery will take its toll, but in reusing rather than throwing away or putting it in for recycling, you are reducing the need for more boxes to be produced. Even one extra reuse cycle has a bigger environmental impact in a positive way that you realise.
  • Insulation – Poly products give a lot in the way of thermal insulation – that’s why they’re so popular for food deliveries as they help to maintain an even temperature. If you’ve got a Poly product that you can’t reuse like for like but still would like to do something with, then breaking it up into pieces to fit things like lunchboxes or reusable shopping bags. Neither EPS or EPP will maintain a temperature on their own but will provide insulation for short journeys.
  • Protection – Poly products are very strong and durable, so one alternative reuse would be to again break your product down into the right shapes to give protection in areas such as cupboards, lunchboxes, other packaging and even display cabinets. If you want something to have a thick cushioning or a soft surface to land on, then this is a great reuse option.
  • Kids craft – who doesn’t love playing with Polystyrene. It feels great especially when it does crumble down, so if your child is old enough, why not break it up and let them go wild with it. It can be easily vacuumed or swept up after and could provide just that extra fun on a rainy day. Of course, this is the best option for when the Polystyrene is at the end of it’s lifespan and if you cannot get to a recycling centre, but it does at least save putting it straight into landfill.

If you’d like to weigh up the pros and cons of a Poly box next to one of our Recyclable liners, please read our Pros and Cons post, or use our handy Packaging Finder to choose the right packaging for your needs

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