In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Chris Tangey of Ecycle Solutions, an Australian recycler of e-waste and polystyrene.
Polystyrene has been a popular padding and packaging solution for a long time. However, because it’s really 98% air, it’s been the bugbear of the plastics recycling industry because it’s very difficult to transport it at a profitable rate.
Chris and I talked about the value of this recyclable material and why they are able to provide this service when most other recyclers can’t.
I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Chris Tangey of Ecycle Solutions.
Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2020
Topics from this episode:
- 0.00 | Intro
- 2.09 | Getting into the electronics waste (e-waste) recycling business
- 4.14 | How did Chris get involved with Ecycle Solutions?
- 7.17 | Why they can recycle polystyrene when others say it’s too expensive
- 9.12 | The price for recycling polystyrene with Ecycle Solutions’
- 10.47 | Changes to the demand for polystyrene for packaging – or not?
- 12.09 | The desire to trial a school education, consumer waste recycling program in the Australian Capital Territory.
- 13.33 | Impacts on the Australian ban for the exports of single resin or polymer plastics
- 14.47 | State landfill bans for polystyrene and other materials.
- 16.12 | Integrated Recycling – a processor for recycled polystyrene
- 18.34 | Uses of recycled polystyrene
- 22.27 | The potential for recycling even more of this material just through retail partners
- 23.50 | Impacts of Covid-19? It’s like Christmas!
- 24.39 | Impacts of oil prices
- 27.42 | Beware of the lack of environmental benefits of the cold-press method for compacting polystyrene
- 29.57 | How to learn more about Ecycle Solutions.
- 30.48 | You can recycle your e-waste for free without buying a replacement
- 31.52 | How much polystyrene do they recycle each year? “The equivalent of the Sydney cricket ground.”
Quotes from Chris Tangey in this episode:
“Going back to 2012, what happened was that the government introduced the National TV and Computer Recycling Scheme. And what happens is that importers have an obligation through legislation to recycle two-thirds of what they bring into the country. And that increases by 2% every year up to the point where it gets to 80%. And they have to sign up with a regulator to do that, of which Ecycle Solutions was born.”
“We have collection cages at the likes of Harvey Norman because they’re doing home deliveries. So, they pick up end-of-life units, bringing them back. And we have cages at Harvey Norman stores to collect those units, which then go and recycle into reusable material, greater than 90% reusable material. We’re currently at about 95%. What also happened was that the packaging needs to be recycled and the polystyrene was problematical one. And we sourced a solution whereby it’s fully recycled.”
“I really like the whole idea of recycling. And what I found is I’m working with third party recyclers on the e-waste, and they’re specialist recyclers and they are small to medium businesses. And I’m helping their businesses to grow. And they’re all growing exponentially which has been a fantastic story. And the whole thing about a polystyrene and what it becomes – people are fascinated by it. So, it’s a good news story.”
“I suppose the reason why our system works is that the trucks are going to the locations where the waste is, and they’ve got a payload that pays for itself, as in the freight. And then they were going to return empty to the depot. So, the most will come back with end of life TVs.”
“It’s a logistics exercise, and it’s (polystyrene) very light and a huge volume. So, it’s one of those things that the volume of it means that the freighting of it is expensive if you aren’t doing it by reverse-logistics. If you have to send a truck out to go to an electrical retailer to just pick up polystyrene – well, the charge for that service would be too great and that will just end up in the waste bin.”
The difficulty with Councils is, you know, you’ve got to desticker it, you’ve got to clean it. And they don’t have those systems in place to do it. And someone’s got to pay. And Councils don’t want to pay.”
“You’ve got to be able to centralise where waste is collected from because it’s a logistics exercise. So, it’s not a dirty waste stream. So, it’s a good thing to do, but to pay at the end of the day, that’s the issue. There is a cost. It costs money to run trucks and to then process the waste and to buy the equipment to process it. You’ve got to get a gate fee.”
“Polystyrene, as you know, you can grab it and you can snap it and it’s really quite fragile. But when you recycle it, it becomes 2% of what it was. So, four cubic metres will make a block that is 1ft2 and about six inches high. So that’s what it becomes. And it’s really dense and quite heavy. That’s 20 kilos in that block. So, it’s like a rock.”
“If you look on our website, it’ll tell you where our collection points are for e-waste.”
“People obviously have taken the opportunity during the Covid to do a clean-up because we had our biggest collection month ever, last month…specifically for the e-waste side, but it also translated into the polystyrene because the more sales and home deliveries and things like that that happened, the collection of the waste increased on both sides.”
“There are two ways of recycling polystyrene at the moment. And there are businesses that are large generators of polystyrene waste and are using what is called a cold press method of recycling polystyrene. And what it does is that it squeezes all of the air out of the polystyrene and makes it into these sort of dense logs. But there’s not much you can do with that once it’s in that form. So, a lot of that ends up going to landfill in any case. So, it’s sort of a bit of a pointless exercise.”
“We’re probably processing the equivalent of the Sydney cricket ground filled with loose polystyrene each year. Now, at least that’s not going into a hole in the ground.”
Links & Resources
- Learn more about Ecycle Solutions on their website.
- Find out more about recycling polystyrene here:
- Get in touch with them on their contact page.