Lessons from the Far East
Brussels —Sometimes we need to think outside of the box to find solutions to the problems that we face. The Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) industry is always searching for new and innovative ways to improve the recyclability of EPS itself. Although the industry is researching and developing new technologies, we are also looking for good solutions already out there that could be successfully adapted here in Europe.
In terms of recycling, for example, Japan leads the way with innovative ways to get end-of-life EPS to the recycling bin. More than 90% of EPS is currently recycled in the country, with more than 100k tonnes of it being recycled in 2020. This number is expected to rise in coming years.
A large percentage of Japanese EPS is used in wholesale markets in the form of fish boxes. From the big Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo to Kyoto’s Nishiki market, EPS is used everywhere. A lot of this EPS used to go to waste, which was bad for the environment. To improve this situation and the recycling rates of EPS, JEPSA, the Japanese Expanded Polystyrene Association, introduced recycling equipment directly into the markets. Some of these machines reduce the volume of EPS boxes, allowing for an efficient crushing and shredding. Other machines are used for on-site recycling of EPS.
JEPSA has been installing these machines in as many of the fish markets as possible. It is also trying to boost the introduction of the machines themselves by subsidising a part of the equipment installation cost . Not so long ago, JEPSA offered a grant for the installation of recycling facilities at 6 wholesale markets in Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagasaki.
Another initiative that JEPSA has undertaken has been to push for its members to install recycling equipment such as volume reduction machines in their own EPS factories. This kills two birds with one stone. The factories effectively become recycling facilities, which, given Japan’s lack of space for recycling plants, make it a very good solution. As of June 2020, there were 132 locations nationwide with such equipment, called EPSY PLAZA.
These initiatives as well as many others have led to the high EPS recycling rate in the country.
EPS recycling in Europe is constantly improving, but we know that we can do better. We can take inspiration from Japan’s solutions to boost EPS recycling in Europe. Let’s all recycle EPS to give this material countless opportunities to be used while protecting our environment from unnecessary waste!