How to Dispose of Polystyrene in a Safe and Eco-Friendly Way in the UK

Are you concerned about the environmental impact of polystyrene and seeking ways to dispose of it responsibly? Look no further! This comprehensive guide on how to dispose of polystyrene will help you understand what polystyrene is, its environmental impact, the challenges and solutions of recycling it, and creative ways to reuse and reduce its usage. Stay with us to learn how you can contribute to a cleaner, greener future.

Short Summary

  • Understanding polystyrene involves recognizing its environmental effects and exploring ways to dispose of it responsibly.
  • Adhering to guidelines set by local councils and commercial waste management is essential for correct disposal or recycling.
  • Reducing polystyrene usage through mindful decisions can contribute to a more sustainable future.

Understanding Polystyrene

Polystyrene is a versatile plastic material that comes in both foam and solid forms. It is widely utilised in the area of packaging food. Takeaway containers, egg cartons, polystyrene cups, and food trays are some of the examples of such uses. Polystyrene is also employed in the manufacture of appliances, toys, electronics, and other products, thanks to its natural transparency and ability to be produced in a variety of colours.

While polystyrene is lightweight, robust, and economically viable for businesses, it is not as easily recyclable as other plastics, making polystyrene recyclable a challenge. When heated, polystyrene can decompose and emit hazardous chemicals, contributing to waste polystyrene issues.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand the environmental impact of polystyrene and explore ways to dispose of it in an eco-friendly manner. Keep reading to learn more about its environmental effects and how to recycle or safely dispose of this material.

The Environmental Impact of Polystyrene

Polystyrene has a significant environmental impact. One of the major concerns is its slow decomposition rate, which takes up to 500 years to decompose in landfills. This means that polystyrene waste accumulates over time, occupying valuable space and contributing to the ever-growing problem of landfill usage.

Furthermore, polystyrene can release potentially harmful chemicals into the environment, posing a threat to both humans and wildlife. Individuals that work in a manufacturing setting with polystyrene are at risk of experiencing health issues. These issues can range from gastrointestinal problems, to respiratory tract irritation, skin and eye irritations, depression, fatigue, and headaches.

Given the environmental impact of polystyrene, it is crucial to find ways to mitigate its effects. Recycling, reusing, and reducing polystyrene usage are potential solutions to this pressing issue.

Recycling Polystyrene: Challenges and Solutions

Recycling polystyrene is possible, but it faces several challenges. These include its bulkiness, risk of contamination, and lack of necessary infrastructure for recycling. However, there are solutions to overcome these obstacles, such as compacting and shredding polystyrene to reduce its volume and facilitate recycling.

Businesses can help by implementing plastic waste bins to store recyclable polystyrene, including foam cups, on their premises and arranging for a licensed carrier to collect the bins. Households can also recycle expanded polystyrene (EPS) if their local council accepts it, although it may not be as commonly recycled as other materials.

Expanded Polystyrene Recycling

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a recyclable form of polystyrene commonly used in packaging and insulation. In the UK, more than half of all EPS packaging is recycled, which is a promising statistic for those looking to dispose of polystyrene responsibly.

Recycled EPS can be used to manufacture new EPS packaging, insulation products for the construction industry, or combined with other recyclable plastics. Recycling of EPS can be facilitated through local authority recycling schemes or specific EPS recycling companies, providing eco-friendly options for disposing of polystyrene.

Foam Polystyrene Recycling

Foam polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam, is less common and harder to recycle than EPS. However, specialized facilities can still recycle it by shredding the collected EPS foam and compressing it into a denser shape.

Unfortunately, not all recycling facilities accept foam polystyrene, making it less widely recycled and contributing to waste polystyrene issues. Therefore, it is essential to check the availability of foam polystyrene recycling facilities in your area and choose the most eco-friendly disposal option.

Disposal Options for Polystyrene

Polystyrene disposal options depend on local council policies and commercial waste service providers. Some councils and waste service providers recommend disposing of polystyrene in the general waste bin due to the lack of widespread recycling facilities.

In some cases, polystyrene can be placed in a mixed recycling bin if instructed by the local authority or commercial waste management. It is crucial to follow the guidelines set by your local council or waste service provider to ensure the proper disposal or recycling of polystyrene.

General Waste Bin

Most councils and waste service providers recommend disposing of polystyrene in the general waste bin due to the limited availability of recycling facilities. If your local council does not accept polystyrene in recycling bins, make sure to discard it in the general waste bin to ensure proper disposal.

Businesses can explore alternative disposal options, such as arranging for the commercial collection of polystyrene waste by licensed waste carriers. Some waste management companies can even burn polystyrene to produce energy instead of disposing of it in a landfill.

Recycling Bin

In certain situations, polystyrene can be placed in a mixed recycling bin if instructed by the local authority or commercial waste management. However, it is important to note that polystyrene is not typically recyclable in regular kerbside collections due to the difficulty of separating it from other materials and the lack of economic feasibility to recycle it.

If you are unsure about what is recyclable in your area, visit recyclenow.com and enter your postcode into the Recycling Locator to find information on polystyrene recycling options near you.

Creative Ways to Reuse Polystyrene

Reusing polystyrene is an eco-friendly alternative to disposal. One creative way to reuse polystyrene is in gardening, where it can be used as a lightweight substitute for broken pots or gravel for drainage, but only for non-edible plants. Polystyrene can also be repurposed as plant pots for non-edible plants, making it a versatile and environmentally friendly material.

Another great way to reuse polystyrene is in arts and crafts, such as creating sculptures, or for insulation in various applications. Polystyrene can also be repurposed as packing nuts and shaped to provide protection for items when moving house, making it a valuable resource beyond its common use in food packaging.

By reusing polystyrene in creative ways, we can not only minimize its environmental impact, but also save money and resources in the process. So next time you come across polystyrene waste, think twice before throwing it away and consider how you could repurpose it instead, or even explore options for having the polystyrene recycled.

Reducing Polystyrene Usage

Reducing polystyrene usage is another way to minimize its environmental impact. By opting for alternative packaging materials and avoiding products with polystyrene packaging, we can significantly decrease the amount of polystyrene waste generated.

To make a difference, think twice before purchasing items with polystyrene packaging and choose products with more eco-friendly packaging options whenever possible. By making conscious decisions in our everyday lives, we can contribute to a greener future for generations to come.


In conclusion, understanding the environmental impact of polystyrene and exploring responsible ways to dispose, recycle, reuse, and reduce its usage are essential steps towards a more sustainable future. By following local council guidelines, adopting creative reuse methods, and reducing our dependence on polystyrene, we can play a significant role in protecting the environment and preserving our planet’s resources for future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I dispose of polystyrene UK?

Polystyrene is accepted at recycling centres, but not commonly recycled due to a lack of investment in related equipment. As such, most local councils and waste management companies advise that you place polystyrene in your general waste bin.

How do I dispose of polystyrene near me?

Place polystyrene in your regular waste bin – it is not typically accepted for recycling.

Why can I put polystyrene in my recycle bin?

Since polystyrene (EPS) is 98% air and only 2% plastic, it can be recycled into new products, such as poly boxes or rigid plastic products.

Therefore, I can put polystyrene in my recycle bin.

Can polystyrene be recycled?

Yes, polystyrene can be recycled through solutions such as compacting and shredding, despite challenges like bulkiness, risk of contamination and lack of necessary infrastructure.

However, these solutions are not always feasible or cost-effective. Therefore, it is important to consider other alternatives such as reuse and repurposing of polystyrene. This can help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

How long does it take for polystyrene to decompose in a landfill?

It can take up to 500 years for polystyrene to decompose in a landfill.