Polystyrene Recycling NZ

We’ve all seen the Beaches and Waterways of Aotearoa littered with waste Polystyrene. It takes up a lot of space in Landfills, is heavy and, like all plastic, can leach toxic chemicals into the Environment.

This is why it is good to know that styrene, the main building block of polystyrene can be recycled!


It’s the stuff we know as ‘Styrofoam’, and it’s made from expanding beads of polystyrene plastic which are fused together to form a dense foam. It’s lightweight, but also an excellent insulator. As a result, we use it in everything from packaging to children’s school projects and food takeaway containers.

It takes thousands of years to break down in landfill, and when hot food or liquid touches it it starts to partially breakdown releasing Styrene and Benzene, which are suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins that can be absorbed into the bloodstream and tissues. So, never microwave your food in that to-go container!

The good news is that this incredibly versatile and affordable insulation material can be recycled right here in New Zealand. One of our major EPS manufacturers, Expol, has a residential polystyrene recycling NZ cube programme where you can drop off your domestic EPS waste at select Mitre 10 Mega stores and other locations across the country. It’s then repurposed into EXPOL Tuff Pods, Quick Drain, Under Floor and Therma Slab Sheet in a closed loop life manufacturing process.


The squishy white stuff used to wrap take-away food takes up a lot of space in rubbish bins, but it’s actually an incredibly versatile material. It can be found in surfboards, boogie boards and the protective packaging around fragile items such as televisions and computers.

Polystyrene is a challenging product to recycle because it doesn’t break down very easily and can be difficult to sort into a high quality recycled plastic. It also contains hydro chlorofluorocarbons, which are neurotoxic and have a massive impact on ozone depletion and global warming.

Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to get rid of your Styrofoam waste without sending it to landfill by using the new drop-off point at Mitre 10 in Tauranga. The free programme is run in partnership with EXPOL, who repurposes the foam to make insulation and drainage products. Residents can bring up to two bags of clean EPS to the collection point, and the material is accepted from households as well as businesses.

Soft plastics

Soft plastics are a hugely popular packaging material, however they’re not without their downside. If they aren’t recycled correctly they can damage normal plastic recycling factories and end up in landfills and pollute the environment when they break down. They can also contaminate paper recycling streams, and are a significant cause of microplastic pollution which can enter waterways and be ingested by marine wildlife.

Soft Plastics are generally a yellow-lid bin item and include things like plastic bags, chip packets, bread bags, mail satchels and cling wrap. They should not be mixed with other materials in your yellow-lid bin as they can cause issues when they are processed at a materials recovery facility.

In New Zealand, Soft Plastics are recycled through the Love NZ soft plastics scheme which is run by The Packaging Forum. This scheme provides 69% of New Zealanders with a drop-off point. The collected bags and wrappers are then recycled into a range of products including fence posts at Future Post in Waiuku and into ducting by Second Life Plastics in Levin.

Other plastics

Polystyrene is best known as a component of Styrofoam drinking cups, take-out “clamshell” food containers and picnic cutlery. It’s ultra-lightweight and cheap but is structurally weak, leaking styrene (a possible carcinogen) when heated to release toxins into food and drinks. It’s also non-biodegradable and takes up a lot of landfill space.

Plastics that have a recycling triangle with a number one on them are recyclable through kerbside recycling. That includes clear and coloured PET plastics, milk bottles, cleaning products, some meat trays and punnets for berries and tomatoes.

A new collection point for household EPS in Mangawhai is open thanks to an initiative from interior installer Matt Strong. He has partnered with Mitre 10 Mega and EXPOL to provide a collection point for households to drop off their household Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) packaging for reprocessing. The EPS is repurposed into new products including tuff Pods, Quick Drain, Under Floor and Therma Slab sheeting. It’s the first EPS recycling in the north of the country.