Polystyrene comes in two forms – the generally white, lightweight expanded polystyrene foam and the more dense extruded type.

Expanded polystyrene
Expanded polystyrene (sometimes referred to as the trade name of Syrofoam, or as EPS) is most commonly seen as section shaped from small foam balls.

The use of shaped expanded polystyrene lining a cardboard carton was the most common method of protecting new equipment.  It is now being replaced with shaped cardboard sheets or assemblies as a better alternative from an environmental perspective.

Sometimes polypropylene is used as packaging in the same manner as expanded polystyrene.  It can be identified by having a more dense structure, a shiny rather than matt appearance, and a lack of the granular structure seen in polystyrene.

Overseas there are bans the use of expanded polystyrene in some areas as well as a number of attempts to ban it without success due to lobbying by the plastics industry.  For example in the US the California Senate narrowly rejected a Bill to ban expanded polystyrene foam food packaging. In mid 2017 the Canadian metropolitan region of Vancouver began considering a ban on expanded polystyrene.

Extruded polystyrene
In electronics extruded polystyrene  (PS) is sometimes used as the outer cases and other parts.  It is also used in a wide range of products such as optical media cases, electronic devices, disposable razors, and food containers.


There has been a increase in the number of recycling facilities for expanded polystyrene in Christchurch.   Ashburton Wastebusters accept it for recycling.  It is processed with the use of heat and exported for reuse.  Two of the larger waste companies collect polystyrene separately to other materials.

EcoCentral, the Christchurch City Council owned waste and recycling company, charges $2222 per tonne for disposal to landfill. 

Extruded polystyrene was able to be recycled through a Christchurch company but due to a  huge reduction in the plastics accepted by China (as part of the National Sword programme) there is no ready market for it.


Further information