Australia's plastics industry stepped up its campaign to protect the country's business for expanded polystyrene produce boxes by upgrading a collection program for retailers. In a related strategy, Melbourne-based Huntsman Chemical Co. Australia Ltd. is working on a research program with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to recycle EPS boxes. EPS boxes are used to transport and display fruit and vegetables in supermarkets and greengrocers.
Dimi Pesudovs, Australia's Plastics & Chemical Industries Association's national division manager, said use of EPS boxes is under threat from environmental groups because of the product's low recycling rates.
APCIA has had an informal EPS produce box collection program in some Australian states for several years, but upgraded the service this year.
Under the new program, supported by Australia's EPS suppliers and EPS box manufacturers, collection depots have been set up in all capital cities. In some cities, EPS boxes also are collected direct from supermarkets.
Pesudovs said the upgraded program is working well, but there is still ``a long way to go.''
He said about 2.2 million pounds, or 10 percent of EPS boxes, are collected annually. Collected boxes are compacted and sold to Huntsman, which exports the EPS to Asia.
Hugh Forrest, Huntsman Australia corporate affairs manager, said no Australian extruders can recycle EPS, but Huntsman is working with RMIT to develop its own recovery process.
He said Hunstman and RMIT plan to process EPS produce boxes into beads that can then be made into products for building and consumer markets. The companies plan to have the program operational by 1998.