NLWA launches polystyrene recycling pilot

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has launched a pilot scheme tasked with the collection and recycling of polystyrene across the North London area.

The trial is taking place at South Access Road reuse and recycling centre (RRC) in Waltham Forest, and Summers Lane RRC in Barnet, with the initiative resulting from a collaboration between the NLWA, LondonEnergy Ltd, the British Plastics Federation, and Greenbank Recycling Solutions. With 10,000 tonnes of polystyrene being discarded annually throughout the nation, the pilot scheme hopes to reduce the amount of the material that ends up in landfill.

Once the scheme is fully running, eight of the region’s RRCs controlled by the authority will begin collecting the material. It will then be transported to two processing sites which the  NLWA states have been fitted with new compactors courtesy of Greenbank Recycling; the company will be responsible for the management of the material from this point in the process. The method of reprocessing will involve the expansion of polystyrene droplets into the desired shape of the manufacturer – the resultant material is often referred to as expanded polystyrene, as such. Once reprocessed, the expanded polystyrene will be turned into insulation panels for the housing and construction industries – these will be recyclable, meaning that they can be reprocessed again after use – or into hard plastic, with uses including coat hangers, toys, and picture frames.

The NLWA added polystyrene to its list of waste streams that are able to be recycled at its RRCs on 8 November. This comes in the wake of the roll out of its mattress recycling scheme, which resulted in 13,600 mattresses being collected in the space of 10 weeks.

Chair of NLWA, Cllr Clyde Loakes, commented: “Expanded polystyrene is a challenging material to dispose of because it is extremely lightweight, but also takes up a relatively large volume. Up until now our only solution was to dispose of it through energy from waste (incineration), but this new recycling infrastructure will enable us to manage it efficiently and with less impact to the environment.

“We are delighted to be able to add expanded polystyrene to the extensive range of recycling services in north London. While it’s essential that more is done to prevent waste in the first place, there remains an important role for recycling. NLWA and its partners continue to seek opportunities to manage resources in a more circular way and extract maximum value out of all the materials we receive.

“In our fight to tackle the Climate Emergency, we all have a part to play. We call on residents to make full use of the recycling services available to them, both at home and through local collection points.”