Dispose of Styrofoam and Styrodur - all facts at a glance
- Short portrait material
- Typical applications
- HBCD and the new regulation
- Discard Styrofoam and Styrodur with HBCD
- Dispose of Styrofoam and Styrodur without HBCD
- Cost of disposal
- Problem thermal insulation composite system
- Other factors
- Be careful when buying a house
Over the past few years, there have been negative reports about styrofoam and styrodur in the media - especially in connection with the disposal of insulation materials. But what is behind it ">
If you search the Internet for clear, unambiguous information on how Styrofoam and Styrodur are properly disposed of, unfortunately, you will find only a few clear facts. Most of the articles are concerned with the amendment of the Waste Catalog Ordinance, which now classifies a certain type of insulating material as hazardous waste. From our point of view, the contributions provide a lot of valuable information. However, as a layman, it is extremely difficult to combine them into a logical, comprehensible overall picture in order to deduce how the disposal of the materials actually (practically) works. That's why we decided to give you a comprehensive explanation of the most important rules in this detailed guide, so that in the future you will know exactly how to deal with the insulation materials in terms of disposal!
Short portrait material
Before we deal with how to properly dispose of Styrofoam and Styrodur, we would like to introduce you to the insulation materials.
Both are brand names for polystyrene foam boards, a plastic. These panels act as insulating materials that have several positive properties: they are considered rot-proof, inexpensive and versatile. In addition, they provide above-average insulation performance.
A critical point, which is not insignificant for our further remarks, should be mentioned here: The foam boards are made of petroleum with relatively high energy input and are flammable. Therefore, they often contain a flame retardant, which should prevent a rapid spread of fire on the facade in case of fire. The most significant examples of these flame retardants are hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and polymer FR. The former plays an essential role in our further explanations. So much for the similarities of Styrofoam and Styrodur. But what are the differences ">
Styrofoam refers to expanded polystyrene (EPS), while Styrodur is the name for extruded polystyrene (XPS). Details can be found in our separate guide text "The difference between Styrofoam and Styrodur insulation" . At this point, reference should only be made to the optical differentiation feature of the two foam boards: With EPS you can recognize individual beads. In contrast, XPS is characterized by the uniform, closed foam structure. In addition, Styrodur plates are often marked by the respective manufacturer by dyes.
We also want to keep this section short, as you get more detailed information in the above-mentioned guide.
EPS (Styrofoam) is primarily used for facade insulation (primarily as ETICS thermal insulation composite system). In addition, it is used as a roof or impact sound insulation as well as a package for the protection of goods.
XPS (Styrodur) is mainly used in perimeter insulation (exterior insulation of basement walls) and flat roof insulation of inverted roofs.
HBCD and the new regulation
Until recently, polystyrene could easily be disposed of as plastic or mixed construction waste. As a result, EPS and XPS were shredded, mixed with other waste and incinerated in a licensed waste-to-energy plant. However, an amendment to the Waste Ordinance Ordinance came into force in 2016. Now, polystyrene insulation is considered to be hazardous waste, ie hazardous waste - but only on one condition: it must contain the toxic flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), which is now prohibited worldwide.
What exactly is HBCD?> Frequently Asked Questions about HBCD
Note: In the Federal Republic of Germany HBCD appeared to be used only until August 2015 due to the impending ban. Since then, according to the industry association Hartschaum (IVH) harmless substances - especially polymer FR - used. According to scientific findings, the relatively new flame retardant Polymer-FR has more favorable environmental properties than HBCD. It is considered harmless.
Let's rediscover the first two (practically) important facts from these accounts:
Fact 1: Polystyrene with HBCD should be disposed of as special waste. HBCD-containing polystyrene and styrofoam products must therefore no longer be treated as plastic or mixed construction waste.
Fact 2: If you have the option, you should definitely opt for products that contain Polymer FR as a flame retardant.
Let's now turn to the main part of our guide: answering the question of how to properly dispose of the practical insulation boards.
Discard Styrofoam and Styrodur with HBCD
From now on, HBCD-containing polystyrene must be disposed of in special waste facilities. In these plants, the poorly degradable hexabromocyclododecane should be extracted from the flue gas by means of a special filter. For those who (have to) dispose of their HBCD-containing polystyrene waste in competent waste incineration plants, the act is much more expensive than before by the innovation. In addition to the financial overhead, there is also the requirement to document the disposal completely.
But despite the new classification, EPS and XPS waste with HBCD can continue to be incinerated in waste-to-energy plants if the latter have the appropriate permit.
This results in our facts 3, 4, 5 and 6:
Fact 3: HBCD-containing polystyrene must be taken to a hazardous waste incineration plant.
Fact 4: Disposal via the hazardous waste incineration plant is more expensive than the disposal of the products in a waste incineration plant.
Fact 5: The disposal of HBCD-containing EPS or XPS must be documented accurately.
Fact 6: In waste-to-energy plants, HBCD-containing polystyrene may only be incinerated if the respective power plants have a corresponding permit.
Dispose of Styrofoam and Styrodur without HBCD
For polystyrene products that do not require the flame retardant HBCD and instead contain harmless agents such as polymer FR, the same rules apply as before. These are described below to let you know how to dispose of HBCD-free EPS and XPS.
Variant A) Simple polystyrene moldings, such as those used as packaging materials for electrical appliances or similar, can be returned to the store where you purchased the product. Businesses are now obliged to take back packaging waste locally. For this reason, you will find collection boxes for various types of waste that come to light through product packaging. Also for Styrofoam are suitable containers ready.
Variant B) Alternatively, dispose of smaller quantities of EPS like any other plastic waste: over the yellow sack or the yellow bin or recyclable or recycling containers.
Note: Both the disposal in the shop as well as the removal via yellow sack, yellow bin, recyclable or recycling container assume that the Styrofoam parts are clean!
Variant C) You can dispose of small soiled polystyrene parts in the residual waste. Never place such parts in the yellow bag, the yellow bin or recyclable or recycling containers!
Variant D) If you have to dispose of large quantities of EPS, take the material to a recycling center. Even bulky Styrofoam parts that do not fit through the slot of the container, you can leave there. But again, this variant is only allowed for clean EPS waste.
Variant E) For large quantities of soiled EPS, you must go to a waste incineration plant.
Variant F) Styrodur - whether clean or soiled - must not be placed in either the yellow sack or the yellow bin or in the recyclable or recycling container. Smaller quantities are disposed of in the residual waste. For the removal of large quantities turn to the waste incineration plant.
Out of all this comes our facts 7, 8, 9 and 10:
Fact 7: Dispose of small, clean styrofoam parts in the shop, yellow bag, the yellow bin, the recyclable or recycling container.
Fact 8: Small, soiled polystyrene parts as well as all small (clean and soiled) Styrodur parts migrate into the residual waste.
Fact 9: Bulky and large, clean polystyrene parts are disposed of at the recycling center.
Fact 10: Large, contaminated polystyrene parts and all large (clean and polluted) Styrodur parts are to be brought to the incinerator.
Cost of disposal
The cost of disposing of waste depends on the type and its purity. These prices refer to a 5 m³ container. Depending on the region you can vary about 20% in the price.
- Mixed waste: about 500 euros
- Building rubble (without Styrofoam): about 250 euros
- Pure Styrofoam without flame retardant: approx. 100 Euro
What looks so cheap at first glance has two hooks:
The Styrofoam must be absolutely pure. Self-adhesive is not accepted by the disposal service providers.
The low density of Styrofoam automatically generates a large volume. A container with five cubic meters is therefore quickly filled.
Problem thermal insulation composite system
There are some cases in which polystyrene panels can only be loosely installed and removed again. These are mainly found in the roof insulation. Basement ceilings can also be insulated with styrofoam boards by means of clamps or screws. However, most of the polystyrene panels are used as a thermal insulation composite system. This is particularly problematic for disposal.
The polystyrene panels are glued to the facade and then covered with mineral plaster. This glue on both sides foreign matter on the plate. A process for dismantling, in which the plaster economically useful again can be separated from the polystyrene plate, does not yet exist.
For large, homogeneous façades of multi-family dwellings, one could perhaps theoretically imagine this separation. Single-family houses, which are made from the popular construction kits made of Styrofoam formwork blocks, but absolutely no separation during the dismantling is possible.
That's why most of the styrofoam used in house construction will have to be disposed of as mixed waste. This is expensive for the homeowner and harmful to the environment.
Thermal insulation with Styrofoam is increasingly under criticism. Escaping toxins and problematic disposal make this insulating material increasingly unpopular. It is to be expected that the legislator will further tighten the disposal conditions for polystyrene.
Styrofoam, which was built before 1993, has been manufactured with CFCs. This harmful to the ozone layer gas is bound in the pores of the old polystyrene and exits when burned out. It may therefore only be disposed of in special waste incineration plants that are technically capable of binding the CFC.
The same applies to Styrofoam, which was enriched with HBCD as a flame retardant. This remedy has only been banned since 2014, so most of the new or refurbished buildings are likely to be clad with HBCD polystyrene panels. An ordinance coming into force in the fall of 2016 will make these plates hazardous waste, which will incur particularly high disposal costs. It is to be expected that the disposal companies demand exact information about the resulting polystyrene panels and then adjust their prices accordingly.
Be careful when buying a house
The tendency of the further development is more than clear: The disposal of Styrofoam and Styrodur which was installed as ETICS, will be much more expensive in the future.
The durability of a styrofoam-clad façade is given as approx. 25 years. There are attempts to restore the thermal insulation of a facade by additional insulation layers, without first removing the old ETICS. However, these approaches have not yet matured and only postpone the actual problem. A house that is ten to fifteen years old already has half of its service life due to thermal insulation. For the new owner is therefore likely to a remedial action, which can be surprisingly expensive.
When buying a house, it is important to pay attention to the type of thermal insulation used. The disposal costs of the renovation can be a nasty surprise. Thermal insulation based on minerals, such as stone or glass wool, is much easier to build and renew.
Here is an overview of all ten facts compiled in this guide:
Fact 1: EPS and XPS with HBCD are considered hazardous waste.
Fact 2: If in doubt, choose products with Polymer FR as flame retardant.
Fact 3: HBCD-containing polystyrene must be placed in a hazardous waste incineration plant.
Fact 4: Disposal via the hazardous waste incineration plant is relatively expensive.
Fact 5: The disposal of HBCD-containing EPS and XPS must be documented accurately.
Fact 6: Waste-to-energy plants are only eligible for incineration of HBCD-containing polystyrene if they have the appropriate permit.
Fact 7: Dispose of small, clean polystyrene parts in the shop, yellow bag, the yellow bin, the recyclable or recycling container.
Fact 8: Carry small, soiled Styrofoam parts and all small (clean and soiled) Styrodur parts into the residual waste.
Fact 9: Bulky and large, clean styrofoam pieces take you to the nearest recycling center.
Fact 10: Large, contaminated Styrofoam parts and all large (clean and polluted) Styrodur parts must be transported to the waste incineration plant.
Please note: In some regions there are different regulations (also regarding the disposal costs). Be sure to check out our basic explanation with your local waste disposal service for more details.
Tips for quick readers:
- Disposal of Styrofoam (EPS) and Styrodur (XPS) is complex
- Differences in products with and without HBCD
- HBCD is a dangerous flame retardant
- Products with HBCD are considered hazardous waste
- Disposal via hazardous waste is comparatively expensive
- Buy better products with Polymer FR
- Products without HBCD are size and condition dependent in terms of disposal
- Small clean EPS: business, yellow sack, recycling container
- Small dirty EPS: residual waste
- Big clean XPS: recycling yard
- Big dirty EPS: waste incinerator
- Small clean or dirty XPS: residual waste
- Large clean or dirty XPS: waste incinerator