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!




AuthorDaniel Costa