Polystyrene is an excellent packaging material due to its insulating and protective properties. Unfortunately, once goods are delivered and opened, the polystyrene becomes a waste material that companies must pay to dispose of. Large, bulky pieces of polystyrene can take up significant space in a waste container which means it will need to be emptied more often – and therefore is more costly.
‘Rolls-Royce Motor Cars produce around 20-40 large polystyrene trays that are used to protect the front grill sections of the Phantom and other chrome parts. Enough to fill three or more waste containers every week,’ said Carl Payne, the operations manager at Biffa.
But the cars probably produce only around half a tonne of polystyrene per month, so it made it unfeasible for recycling companies to collect and recycle, he added.
That’s because polystyrene is roughly 95 per cent air and only five per cent recyclable material. Therefore, filling a lorry with polystyrene is disproportionately expensive because of the large volume of space it takes up compared to the small amount of material that can be recycled.
Biffa’s solution was to recycle polystyrene using a Styromelt machine that melts the polystyrene to form a dense block of material that is reduced in volume by over 95 per cent of the original material. So a two cubic metre load of polystyrene comes out of the machine as a small block 90cm x 25cm x 5cm. The block can be stored and sold to recycling companies who then turn it into fuels or new products such as garden decking.
‘Our main objectives are to divert waste from landfill and reduce cost. Biffa and the manufacturer of the Styromelt allowed Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to trial the machine. Currently, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are looking to save £2000 – £3000 per year by recycling polystyrene,’ Payne concluded.
Polystyrene is collected daily and put into the Styromelt machine. Once enough is in the machine, a melt can be run during the day and the densified blocks can then be stored until there are enough to send for recycling.