Recycling polystyrene shipping materials

Polystyrene as a material doesn’t have the greatest reputation – we’ve written before about whether it deserves the bad rep it does have, but there’s no avoiding the fact that as modern, eco friendly materials go, polystyrene is pretty low on the list. We continue to use it though in some of our shipping systems, because it is thermally superior to many eco equivalents, strong, and can easily be reused by the end recipient. In addition, and contrary to some of the information out there, polystyrene can be recycled once it comes to the end of its useful life.

The EPS (expanded polystyrene) boxes we use on our food shipping systems are made up of 2% styrene and 98% air – in this way, we have opted for the most environmentally friendly solution to still provide users with the thermal conductivity benefits of EPS for their shipping needs. They are certified food safe, watertight and extremely efficient at what they do.

Recycling polystyrene shippers

When they come to the end of their usable life, EPS shippers can be recycled – they are not what we call “kerbside recyclable” unfortunately (this is because most local council recycling plants do not have the machinery needed to recycle them correctly), but they can be dropped off at specific points to be taken to specialist recycling plants.

For EPS containers to be accepted for recycling, they need to be clean and uncompacted. There are no specialist handling requirements for recycling operatives, so no need for any additional labelling etc.

Why should we recycle EPS?

Whilst our shippers do contain the minimum amount of EPS we could use to ensure thermal conductivity alongside strength and durability, the 2% they do contain does pose risks to the environment if left in landfill. Please note that they are non-toxic to everyday human users of these shippers.

If left in landfill or left out in the natural environment, styrene is moderately toxic to aquatic organisms, as well as posing a risk to other animals and ecosystems. This is because it is not ingestible, and as it breaks down it does contain chemicals that can cause irritation to animal skin, eyes, the gastrointestinal tract and so on.

EPS should not be burned as a disposal method, as this releases styrene gas into the air – this has been linked with effecting the nervous system if inhaled in large quantities.

Reusing polystyrene shippers

If you would prefer to reuse our polystyrene shippers before sending them for recycling, here are some ideas on how to do this:

  • Break into pieces and use for drainage in plant pots.
  • Use as an insulating material when packing lunches or chilled goods.
  • Use in crafts.
  • Send on as packaging fillers or shipping pellets to give protection in transit.
  • Polystyrene can also be used as finger or toe spacers during a manicure or pedicure.


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Knowledgebase Packaging branche