28 Nov 2017

Making tiny polystyrene houses

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 2:19 pm on 28 November 2017

With the rising costs of housing all over the country, a Porirua recycler decided to use his 15 years in the industry to come up with a sustainable option for dwellings. 

Poly Palace's Tiny House

Poly Palace's Tiny House Photo: Supplied

Poly Palace founder Richard Moore is putting his 100 percent recycled polystyrene to use in small structures that he's calling "Earth Dinghies" - tiny homes to be given to social enterprises for those in need. 

He says polystyrene is one of the last materials to break down in landfill. It can last for more than 500 years.

“Our approach is take it out of the natural environment, take it out of the landfill and find an application that matches the durability… so if we can take away the material and put it in the built environment where it is useful, then we are actually using that material’s inherent durability in a way that we can attribute value to that material,” he says.

He was able to build a machine he describes as “a super-sized cappuccino machine” that grinds polystyrene down so that it then can be used in construction.

“What most people don’t understand about polystyrene… you grind it up with a cheese grater, you put it in your cappuccino machine where the coffee goes, you run a short black of hot steamy water through it - that’s polystyrene manufacturing on a small scale.”

In 2014 his company released a product called Eco-Slab, which is made of 100 percent recycled polystyrene. He says Fletcher Construction was buying the product as fast as he could make it.

“That was a huge sale for us and gave us the ability to communicate with the big infrastructure projects.”

Poly Palace offers polystyrene recycling services and covers the Greater Wellington region, but Moore suggests getting in touch with the local council to inquire about their polystyrene recycling facilities.

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