Taiwan Advocates Styrofoam Recycling

By : Taiwan Headlines

Styrofoam is considered too bulky to be collected by local recyclers, and its recycling ratio is quite low, leaving it most often thrown out with the rest of the trash. But it can actually be made into a raw material to produce plastic items at a cost somewhat 40 per cent cheaper than relying on entirely new materials. This process was introduced by the Taipei City Government’s Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday.

Wu Sheng-zhong, the director of the department, reviewed the entire styrofoam recycling process earlier this week, with experts on hand to divide used styrofoam into that for industrial use (including packaging) and styrofoam eating utensils. The industrial-use styrofoam is sold by the department for NT$2 per kilogram to downstream factories, which will melt the material with a heat of 170 degrees Celsius to form it into balls, which can be sold for a price of NT$12 per kilogram. It is then pressed into polystyrene pellets, with a price tag of NT$30 per kilogram, that are the raw material used for plastics products.

Wu stated that while a kilogram of new plastic raw materials costs NT$53 through processes of tapping oil fields, refining oil, etc, the price for using the recycled styrofoam helps lower production costs considerably. Furthermore, styrofoam has already undergone various processes, making it easier to recycle and use again.

Factories can use the recycled polystyrene pellets to make toys, pencil cases, pots, the outer casing for cameras, and keyboards. Taking pencil cases for example, one plastic foot can make 20, which is the equivalent to three recycled styrofoam lunch boxes.

Wu says that the city’s styrofoam recycling rate is extremely low, accounting for only one-eightieth of the city’s 80 tonnes of recyclables daily. He attributes their collecting only 275 metric tonnes of styrofoam each year to the fact that styrofoam takes up a lot of room and that private recycling enterprises have limited resources in storing and transporting such recyclable goods.

Wu stressed that styrofoam does not decompose naturally and simply tossing it out has a considerable impact on the environment. However, recycling it can offer economic returns, as it can be used as a plastics raw material. Wu urged the public to give the styrofoam to recycling vans, rather than just dumping it as trash.

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