Recycled polystyrene housing

Project to provide franchise business opportunities across the continent.

A joint venture pilot project launched in late 2012 by GC Construction, the Mobile Educational and Training Trust (METT) and the University of Pretoria’s Construction
Economics Faculty to create sustainable, lightweight houses – using contaminated, coloured and black polystyrene – has taken off in South Africa.
“Clear, colourless or white polystyrene has always had the highest recycling value, with waste management and recycling companies preferring to collect and recycle unpigmented containers,” explains Hennie Snyman, representing GC Construction and the METT. “However, we have developed a globally-patented chemical mixture that uses recycled scrap polystyrene – such as fast food trays, take away cups and trays for packaging meat and fresh fruit – to create a solid wall system for use in the construction industry.”
Snyman says: “The South African Bureau of Standards subjected the GCC and METT patented chemical mixture to a series of tests, from fire and waterpenetration
tests to load-bearing, impact and stress tests. The results were off the charts and were met with unprecedented success.
“This was the first time in history that polystyrene had sustained heat at 1,800˚C. After a two hour fire test, using 15,000-litres of diesel, the tested panel remained intact. Following the completion of the test, the outer temperature of the polystyrene waste and chemical panel had dropped 21˚C from the start of the test to two hours in the
furnace,” he adds.
GC Construction has now received thego ahead from government to contribute to the construction of one-million houses in Africa using the patented chemical mixture, which is moulded into panels. Each 1,200cm x 500cm panel is made from 12kg of polystyrene, waste and chemicals. “We are going to need polystyrene – a lot of it – as well as real rubbish,” Snyman enthuses.
The company’s flagship factory is based in Pretoria and became fully operational in October 2012. However, due to the speed at which the project is developing, it has already moved to larger premises. The factory currently houses a 375-litre mixer, which can make up to 90 wall panels a day; it plans to install two bigger 5,000-litre mixers later this year.
The Polystyrene Packaging Council of South Africa (PSPC) has teamed up vwith waste management machinery manufacturer Akura to supply machines and auxiliary equipment, including baling presses for the recycling industry, static compactors for supermarkets and retail shopping malls, as well as complete municipal waste transfer stations.
“This will ensure that we are ready to supply GCC with material as soon as it is required,” explains PSPC director, Adri Spangenberg.
To this end, the PSPC has put certain measures in place in order to improve collection from households and transportation of the product. “Two balers have been installed at separate waste management sites in Gauteng – the first in Pretoria at national onsite waste management company WastePlan, and the second in Sandton at ABASA Capital,v which collects polystyrene waste from its own cafeteria and those in surrounding buildings to be baled and shipped for recycling,” Spangenberg states.
“The PSPC has also installed a granulator at Remade Recycling – an independent multiproduct recycling company – in order to supply the GC Construction team with granulated polystyrene that’s been collected from factories and large retailers,” she says.
Franchise opportunities
Snyman adds that GCC and METT will be opening three factories in each of South Africa’s nine provinces to manufacture the wall panels and other construction materials that can be moulded from the patented, dry chemical mixture. However, to keep the intellectual property safe, the mixture will be mixed and packaged in Pretoria and sent to the various factories across the country.
“It’s going to be a franchise-based job-creation project controlled by GCC and METT, which hold the intellectual property of the product,” he explains.
“We will be rolling out the project across South Africa and the rest of the continent as soon as licences are issued to interested parties. Once the licences and relevant paperwork are in place, and the relevant machinery installed, there is no reason why factories would not be able to open up immediately.”
While careful not to commit to a specific date, Snyman says that four licences will be sold very soon in Africa and that he is confident in the product and the speed of construction at which these houses will be constructed.
Meanwhile, data and statistics from the installed balers and granulator are being gathered for use in business plans for potential waste management companies. “The PSPC will use this  information to help new companies and entrepreneurs who would like to start collecting polystyrene to generate income,” says Spangenberg. “We will be able to assist them with a business plan so they know what kind of machine(s) they need and what volumes they need to consider. In addition, as the PSPC we will
assist them with marketing and ensure that they get the materials for their machines.”
Polystyrene Packaging Council of SA: Tel +27 12 259 0554; website: