By: Kate Tilley
April 4, 2013
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — An Australian expanded polystyrene recycler can double exports to China and South Korea if its owner can convince more retailers to hand over EPS waste.
Polystyrene Recycling Queensland, a unit of Brisbane-based Global Interests Pty. Ltd., operates five granulators at electrical goods retail outlets in Queensland and northern New South Wales, which shrink waste EPS volume by 66 percent. The granules are transported to PRQ’s compacting plant, nine miles south of Brisbane’s central business district, where they are compacted into recyclable EPS logs and shipped to Asia.
Leo Sines, PRQ owner and managing director, said PRQ ships a container of EPS logs weighing up to 17 tons each week to Chinese and Korean manufacturers. Those manufacturers process it into various products, including photo frame molds, coat hangers, synthetic timbers, and spoons and cutlery.
“We have forged a strong secondary reuse export market in China; right now Asia will buy every kilo I’ve got,” Sines said. He has not found any Australian manufacturers that will manufacture second-use EPS products.
PRQ has been shipping EPS waste to China for more than a decade. “Initially, we sent one container every two months. It has gradually grown,” Sines said.
He could double PRQ’s EPS exports, if more organizations recycled EPS waste packaging. Sines said research shows about 75 percent of electrical goods stores’ waste is EPS, but it is difficult to convince retailers to recycle.
“They just think waste is a cost of doing business.” He estimates PRQ recycles only 2-3 percent of Australian electrical appliance retailers’ EPS.
PRQ was launched after Australian EPS manufacturers identified a significant waste disposal problem and, in 1992, established an industry group called Recycling Expanded Polystyrene Australia to manage the problem. “The industry knew polystyrene could be recycled, but it wasn’t,” Sines said.
That industry group, now called Expanded Polystyrene Australia, established recycling centers and a national collection network in most capital cities. PRQ was its Queensland recycling and collection center.
Sines initially managed PRQ, but later bought it from Expanded Polystyrene Australia. It is now a unit of his company, Global Interests Pty. Ltd., which trades as Carton Warehouse. Carton sells new and used packaging, mainly for the fruit and vegetable industry, including polystyrene boxes and plastic pallets.
PRQ, in partnership with Queensland’s government, developed a prototype granulator in 2008 to help businesses condense EPS scrap. The five granulators are at the Good Guys Discount Warehouses (Australia) Pty. Ltd. stores. Melbourne-based Good Guys is a chain of almost 100 electrical appliance retail stores across Australia and New Zealand.
PRQ visits the stores twice a week to collect the granulated, bagged EPS waste. Sines estimates PRQ collects 131 square feet per store each time.
PRQ also has a drop-off center and collects EPS from fruit and vegetable and seafood retailers and pharmacies.
The company’s plant recycles 882,000 to 1.1 million pounds a year. “We have so far diverted more than 10.5 million cubic feet of EPS from landfill, but we can take it all,” Sines said.
He said the state of Queensland alone generates more than 24 million pounds annually. “While about half this material is used for long-term building and construction, the remaining mass will ultimately go to landfill if it doesn’t reach our chippers first,” he said.