Lessons from Denmark

Brus­sels —Expand­ed poly­styrene (EPS) is wide­ly used in Den­mark. Not only because of the country’s long tra­di­tion of fish­ing and aqua­cul­ture, but also because of EPS’s use in the med­ical and con­struc­tion sectors–we all know how cold it gets in Den­mark. It has had to devel­op sev­er­al ways to recy­cle and re-use its EPS over the past years, and Denmark’s recy­cling num­bers just keep on improving.

One of the major users of EPS in Den­mark is the fish­ing indus­try. The coun­try, sur­round­ed by the sea on two sides, has more than 600 fish­ing ports reg­is­tered, and it is one of the world’s largest importers and exporters of fish and fish prod­ucts. A large vari­ety of seafood prod­ucts needs to be kept fresh enough for local con­sump­tion and, at the same time, be pro­tect­ed dur­ing trans­porta­tion with­in Den­mark and for export. That’s where EPS, with its excel­lent ther­mal insu­la­tion and hygien­ic prop­er­ties, comes in.

In the past, these fish box­es were usu­al­ly treat­ed like garbage, and most would go to land­fills or incin­er­a­tors. But now, more and more thought­ful fish traders have installed EPS recy­cling machines to han­dle fish box­es all over the country.

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, the main func­tion of the EPS foam recy­cling machine is to make the large vol­ume of EPS foam small­er. An exam­ple that is get­ting a lot of trac­tion in the coun­try is the GREENMAX EPS com­pactor offered by INTCO Recy­cling; a cheap and effec­tive recy­cling machine. If all fish traders installed a machine like this one, EPS recy­cling in the coun­try would skyrocket.

Giv­en how wide­ly EPS is used in the coun­try, the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment has recent­ly stepped in and boost­ed the col­lec­tion of EPS in Dan­ish munic­i­pal­i­ties, with Hader­slev, in south­ern Den­mark, among the most recent addi­tions to the list. The total num­ber is now 38 munic­i­pal­i­ties all over the coun­try. These munic­i­pal­i­ties cov­er waste man­age­ment for more than 46% of Danes. A fur­ther 20 munic­i­pal­i­ties have announced that they seek to col­lect EPS, and are now in the process of estab­lish­ing col­lec­tion schemes for EPS recy­cling. Some 70% of Danes should now be able to recy­cle their EPS. You can see a map of the munic­i­pal­i­ties here.

These two direct actions by the fish­ing indus­try and the gov­ern­ment show us ways to improve the col­lec­tion and recy­cling of EPS all over the con­ti­nent. EPS recy­cling machines could be installed in fish mar­kets and in the store­rooms of fish traders. At the same time, it is clear that the devel­op­ment of munic­i­pal pick-up ser­vices of EPS is key to its recy­cling. EU author­i­ties should encour­age both.


Around 80–90% of EPS fish box­es are recy­cled in Denmark
AuthorDaniel Costa