Is Polystyrene Recyclable?

If you’ve ever bought any sort of large delicate object online, or been to a local fast food restaurant, the chances are you’ve come across polystyrene. Like most plastics, polystyrene poses a problem for our planet. According to a study carried out by Washington University, polystyrene can take over 500 years to decompose, which leaves us with one option: recycling. 

Today, we’re going to be covering the different types of polystyrene, and whether or not recycling it is an option.

What is polystyrene?

Polystyrene is an extremely versatile kind of plastic that comes in two forms, solid and foamed. Derived from styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon, polystyrene is a naturally transparent plastic that can be easily changed with colourants. 

Polystyrene is used to create a wide variety of everyday items, such as:

  • Coffee cups
  • Packaging materials
  • Egg boxes
  • Takeaway food packaging
  • Yoghurt pots

Expanded/foamed polystyrene

While both types of polystyrene, solid and foamed, are lightweight, foamed polystyrene tends to be used for packaging and heating applications, such as the protection of electrical goods and building insulation. Normal polystyrene, on the other hand, is used for things like yoghurt pots and takeaway coffee cups.

Is polystyrene recyclable?

Unfortunately, at the moment, polystyrene is still not widely recycled, but oddly it is 100% recyclable. While there are some specialist companies and schemes that do offer a polystyrene recycling service, it’s exceedingly rare to find a kerbside collection scheme that takes polystyrene to be recycled, which is why it often ends up in the rubbish bin and, in turn, landfill.

Tips on how to upcycle polystyrene

While polystyrene is easy to break down, it’s actually more durable than you would think when treated properly. Here are some quickfire ideas to get you started with upcycling polystyrene:

  • Defrosting your fridge? Pop your frozen goods in a polystyrene container.
  • Keep your food and drinks cool on a picnic with polystyrene packaging.
  • Use polystyrene trays to germinate seeds and grow root vegetables.
  • Create a little hedgebox house using a polystyrene box. All you have to do is decorate it to make it more inviting and then place it in your garden!

Sustainable alternatives to polystyrene

If you want to help combat the production of single-use polystyrene, the most impactful thing you can do right now is to buy a reusable coffee cup and take it with you everywhere. Whether you’re in a coffee shop, at a music festival, a business convention – if you always have your coffee cup handy, then that’s one less polystyrene cup that gets used then thrown away.


Want to learn more about plastic recycling? Here at Brown Recycling, we can recycle a wide variety of different types of plastic, including low-density polyethylene and PVC. If you have any concerns about which types of plastic can or can’t be recycled, all you have to do is give us a call or get in touch online and our friendly team would be happy to help.


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