A great new development on the polystyrene front is the move towards washing dirty post-consumer waste.
Waste trainers like myself have been punting the importance of clean waste for recycling over the years, but it seems many folk are not quite getting this.
Remember the recycling motto: flat and clean is much more green?
You want to experience this
You don’t want air inside your plastic waste, as it makes the transport more expensive and carbon intensive, so stand on your bottles and containers before you send it to be recycled.
All you really need to do is to pay a visit to your nearest materials recovery centre (MRF) to see what it’s like to have to sort dirty waste. Better still, why not go and volunteer there for a day?
Why is it causing difficulty for the industry when well-meaning people send food containers with fishy oil, chutney, etc from take-away vendors or events for recycling?
- Dirty waste attracts flies, bees, smells and rats, which makes the work of sorting the different types of waste at a materials recovery centre (MRF) more unpleasant than it needs to be and even dangerous. Let’s rather respect these ladies working hard to sort our waste products!
- Dirty polystyrene cannot go to the ingot machines, which is where clean polystyrene goes to have the air extracted and the material condensed so that it’s more viable to send it to the recycling plants for re-production into picture frames etc.
Mountain of dirty waste
The filthy polystyrene is piled up at a Cape Town MRF until there’s enough to send to the closest company who can clean and use dirty polystyrene: all the way in Durban. You need a whole mountain of compacted polystyrene to make the transport viable, as this material consist of 95% air. Hence space becomes a problem.
So it’s up to you and I to ensure we clean our plastics before we pop them into the recycling bag. Then there are people who complain that this practice would increase our water consumption to the detriment of our earth. Not so. You simply use the end of your dishwater for this purpose, or here’s the easiest way: Before I retired my geriatric dishwasher I used to get her to wash my polystyrene for me. Simply place the food tray open on top of the glasses and cups in the top tray. Therefore no extra water is used and they come out perfectly clean. Now you may even want to re-use them first before recycling.
Cool new plan
The good news is that the Polystyrene Packaging Council is now rolling out a plan for this dirty domestic polystyrene. Now they are going to be installing wash bays at MRF’s across the country.
During the month of March they will be conducting a series of workshops in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. They will discuss:
- How to clean polystyrene
- Training for staff who supply the materials
- Training for participating schools
- Which types of polystyrene can be recycled
- Which areas are covered
- Marketing and media suggestions
- Step by step instruction booklet
- What can be bailed?
So in-house education for schools is also on the cards. If your school is recycling polystyrene and are keen to learn more, please contact Adri Spangenberg at 012 259 0554 or 082 686 5082 for an interesting and interactive workshop for the learners.
If your school is not recycling polystyrene yet, what are you waiting for?