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Recycling Polystyrene in the Rainbow Nation

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South Africa has overcome many social and political challenges in recent years. However, the evolutions and revolutions haven’t distracted the ‘Rainbow Nation’ from the importance of looking after the environment.

In fact, some people may be surprised about the radical polystyrene recycling programmes taking place in Cape Town and beyond. Reducing the environmental impact of polystyrene used in food packaging is a little-known but important part of these efforts.

Consider this: In 2011, 14% of polystyrene food packaging was being recycled in the country. And between 2013 and 2015 the re-processing of high impact polystyrene (HIPs) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) grew by 106% as knowledge spread and more end markets for these recycled materials were realised.

Among the entrepreneurs taking advantage was Jimi Son, a Pretoria-based businessman. Jimi was reusing 20 tonnes of polystyrene per month in picture frames and mouldings sold throughout South Africa by 2015.

Since then groups such as the Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC) – which celebrates its 10th birthday this year – have continued to advocate the re-use of polystyrene in everything from bean bags to home décor to construction. 

The figures are testament to their success. Last year an estimated 3,600 tonnes of polystyrene was recycled in South Africa – a massive reduction in the amount being diverted to landfill.

In the UK, we’re happy to say that the LINPAC team has been playing its own part in significantly reducing the environmental impact of EPS packaging production. Recent machinery refurbishment at our St Helen’s site has reduced energy consumption in the production process.

We’ve also stood firm in correcting several widely-held misconceptions about EPS. Did you know EPS is 100% recyclable, and CFC and HCFC-free in its manufacturing process? EPS is also made of 93% air, which helps to reduce fuel consumption because of its lightweight construction. In fact it’s one of the most environmentally friendly packaging on the market.

From St. Helen’s in the UK to South Africa, we’re proud to be part of an industry that is taking its responsibility to the planet so seriously.