Can you compact polystyrene?

23rd Jul 2021

Polystyrene is such a versatile material. You undoubtedly come across it in a range of different formats every single day.

If you have a waste compactor, you may have wondered whether it’s possible to use it to compact polystyrene. The answer is yes, and there are considerable financial incentives to doing so.

Read on to learn more about this plastic and its profit potential.

What is polystyrene and what is it used for?

You’d be quicker asking what polystyrene isn’t used for! There are so many consumer products that involve polystyrene. Food packaging uses it because it is a hard plastic that provides clarity. It can also be combined with colorants or other plastics, though. Then, it’s perfect to produce appliances and electronics. Many toys are made with polystyrene, as are automobile parts!  

When you hear the word polystyrene, your mind might go straight to its foamy format. This is called expanded polystyrene (EPS) and it’s used in packaging for its cushioning properties. Foam polystyrene is predominantly air, which makes it a very lightweight method of protecting items.

If your business generates a lot of polystyrene waste, it makes sense to compact it. This will save you space, and it could even make you money…

What equipment do you need to compact polystyrene?

If you want to compact polystyrene, you might choose to use a briquetter. This turns polystyrene into single-size, consistent briquettes, which can easily be stacked, stored, and relocated as required.

Depending on the volume and type of polystyrene that you want to compact, you may benefit from a pre-shedder. This prepares the polystyrene parts for processing.

It’s important to use the right equipment when attempting to compact polystyrene. Disaster can strike if the material melts and causes the machine to seize up. Another awful outcome would be if your polystyrene “popcorned,” producing small pieces rather than briquettes.

That’s why you must ensure your equipment meets specifications before you get started.

Because EPS is made of so much air, it takes up a lot of unnecessary space when it isn’t compacted. In briquette form, though, EPS becomes a hot commodity.

Can you make money from recycling polystyrene?

People often assume that polystyrene can’t be recycled. This is a false perception based on what we know about household recycling.

The fact is that don’t generally generate enough polystyrene waste to justify recycling it. This is why it’s usually disposed of with the rest of our household waste.

However, you can actually recycle polystyrene. Houses may not have the capacity to do so, but businesses should. To achieve this, they either need to invest in or hire a briquette machine.

Although accessing the machines that compact polystyrene incurs a cost, this can become a solid additional revenue stream for your business. You may be surprised to hear that over £400.00 of income can be generated per tonne of compacted EPS.

What are the challenges in compacting polystyrene?

The machines used to compact polystyrene aren’t cheap. The reason is that they have advanced control panels and sensors, which add to the cost. The powerful screw used in this machine is made of top-quality steel. 

To warrant the purchase of a machine like this, and especially if you’re planning to make money from it, you need substantial amounts of EPS. After all, a good compactor will reduce its volume by 98-99%, Therefore it may be more sensible to rent a briquetter rather than invest in one.

Another challenge is that there are many densities of EPS. This makes it difficult to create a perfect briquette every time; however, the right equipment makes it easy. The team at QCR has experience with good and bad briquetter machines, so why not benefit from their expertise?

How can QCR help you manage polystyrene waste?

Even if you’re used to baling, you should be aware that compacting EPS is slightly more complicated. What if you invest in a machine only to have material volumes increase beyond its capacity? When you hire a polystyrene compactor with QCR, you can enjoy free upgrades. You’re essentially “future-proofing” the operation.

We also offer fully maintained rental which means that you’ll enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that the equipment you use is reliable and robust.

To make money from recycling polystyrene, it needs to be processed efficiently. At QCR, we don’t simply provide equipment, we also check space requirements and power supplies. We’ll even liaise with recyclers on your behalf to find the best possible deal for you.

Where does EPS normally end up?

Loose EPS in General waste or DMR bins is very likely to be going to land-fill.  Compacted EPS will be re-used and turned into many different products and uses. A selection is below: 




PS Mouldings for ceilings and picture frames, Yoga and Pilates mats, bolsters and foam bricks, coat hangars and storage boxes are just a few of the ways to re-use the EPS.

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