Many of us have seen pictures of New Zealand beaches and waterways strewn with Styrofoam waste, or worse, dead Seabirds and Marine Life whose stomachs were full of these lightweight white beads. DIVERT receives and recycles businesses and larger household quantities of EPS.
EPS is the expanded form of plastic polystyrene (recycling category 6) – often known as styrofoam. It’s not the hard, brittle, crystal plastic (recycling category 7) that can be recycled into house insulation.
What is EPS?
EPS stands for earnings per share, and it represents the amount of profit that a company makes for each shared unit of its stock. It’s an important metric that investors use to gauge a company’s profitability and value.
Generally, to calculate EPS, you subtract any preferred dividends from a company’s net income and then divide that by the number of shares outstanding during the period. However, this formula can be misleading and can fail to account for some extraordinary events. For this reason, it’s often used in conjunction with other financial methods to determine a more accurate picture of a company’s performance.
While Styrofoam (EPS Plastic type 6) cannot go in your kerbside recycling bin in New Zealand, it is recyclable at various locations around the country. You can drop it off at Divert NZ for example, or Mitre10, who have a EPS plastic recycling cube at most of their stores nationwide. The polystyrene is crushed and turned into reusable insulation for houses and businesses, saving it from ending up in landfill or causing harm to marine life.
How can I recycle my EPS?
The squished little bead type of EPS that we know as Styrofoam is not recyclable via Auckland Council’s kerbside recycling bin. Instead, it is able to be recycled through a Mitre 10 and EXPOL partnership – residents can drop off up to two rubbish bags of clean EPS polystyrene at selected hardware stores. This is then recycled by EXPOL who turn it into new home insulation and drainage products, like their Tuff Pods, Quick Drain, Under Floor and Therma Slab Sheet.
Note that EPS can also be recycled at facilities that specialise in collecting industrial waste such as paint, batteries and electrical goods. However, it is not acceptable to recycle EPS at locations that collect general waste. This is because items that contain’styrofoam’ have been found to contaminate general waste bins. Moreover, some types of EPS polystyrene have pro-degradant additives which are banned in New Zealand. These are a subset of type 7 plastics that fragment and become microplastics that remain in the environment for a long time.
Where can I recycle my EPS?
Expanded Polystyrene Foam, or EPS is used everywhere; the white stuff in your coffee cup, the protective packaging around fragile items and that squishy foam on top of food deliveries. It’s often referred to as Styrofoam but the correct industry name is EPS. Unfortunately, it’s not accepted in Council kerbside recycling bins.
Unlike cardboard, which is easily recycled in our kerbside collection, EPS waste requires specialist equipment and can be bulky to store and transport. For this reason it is recommended that business and large householders look to work with a recycling company for regular EPS recycling pick-ups.
This is especially true if you have a large volume of waste as they typically have specialised storage and collection containers for bulky materials. You can also reduce your EPS recycling costs by looking at the mail-back options that many of these companies offer. Then you can send your EPS to an Auckland-based insulation producer who will turn it into something useful like picture frames or decorative moldings.
How can I avoid using EPS?
As a graphic designer, I often get requests from clients for EPS files. This is frustrating because they aren’t compatible with many other software programs and they often include extra “01” at the end of the file name, which is unnecessary.
Polystyrene is made from styrene, which is found in many different products we use every day: It’s used to make foam and plastic food service containers, surfboards, automobile components, and even roadbank stabilisation systems. Unlike traditional plastics, styrene does not biodegrade and contains Styrene and Benzene which can migrate from the material into food and beverages when hot items touch it.
Household EPS isn’t picked up by kerbside recycling systems in New Zealand, but DIVERT has developed a unique programme where consumers can drop off household EPS for recycling. We collect it at select hardware stores across the country, and it is turned into new EXPOL products. In its first year, DIVERT recovered and recycled over 11 tonnes of waste EPS, which would have otherwise been landfilled or escaped into the Environment.