Expanded polystyrene
Published date: 6 September 2023

Innovative expanded polystyrene service shortlisted for National Recycling Awards

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has been shortlisted for an award in the prestigious MRW National Recycling Awards, which recognise innovative and creative ideas in the sector.

NLWA is a finalist in the Local Authority Success category as a result of its innovative expanded polystyrene recycling service, which has so far saved the equivalent of five double-deckers worth of waste (4.5 tonnes).

With 10,000 tonnes of polystyrene thrown away each year across the UK, NLWA launched its groundbreaking trial at the end of 2021. Residents can now take expanded polystyrene to seven of the eight reuse and recycling centres across north London, with the scheme operating on a permanent basis.

The material is then processed at two main sites equipped with specialist compactors – South Access Road in Waltham Forest and Summers Lane in Barnet.

It can be turned into insulation panels for the housing and construction industries, which reduces running costs and carbon emissions from buildings and saves on virgin materials. At the end of that process, the panels can be recycled again - making the process truly circular. Other uses include household products like coat hangers, toys, and picture frames.

Expanded polystyrene gets its name from the manufacturing process, where droplets are expanded into a desired shape like protective padding for electronics. 

Chair of NLWA, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “Expanded polystyrene is a challenging material to dispose of because it is extremely lightweight, but also takes up a relatively large volume. We’re delighted to have been able to add it to the extensive range of recycling services we now offer in north London.

“While it’s essential that more is done to prevent waste in the first place, we will continue to seek out opportunities like this to manage materials more efficiently and with less impact on the environment.

“We’re delighted that our efforts to support the circular economy and tackle the climate emergency have been recognised.”

Winners of the MRW National Recycling Awards will be announced on 16 November 2023.