The world’s first EPS fish boxes based on chemically recycled plastics Styropor® Ccycled™

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Source: BASF

Fresh fish and ChemCycling™: How does this go together? 

In a collaborative assignment, three organizations have shown how it functions: BASF as a raw material supplier for EPS, VARTDAL PLAST, which transforms the beads into filet fish boxes, and Bremnes Seashore that operates the packages for the transport of some of its high-quality salmon brand BÖMLO® as of Christmas 2021.

“The EPS Fish Box is a prominent and entrusted partner of exceptional properties for sustaining and securing the cold chain during transport. An assured cold chain is vital for food safety and preventing food waste. For us at Bremnes Seashore, it’s thrilling to try an option where the carbon footprint is extremely reduced, and we always respect initiatives that promote the circular economy,” says Simon Nesse Økland, Head of Development at Bremnes Seashore.

Food contact approval and virgin-quality packaging

Styropor® Ccycled™ has identical properties as conventional Styropor®. This keeps excellent packaging properties such as thermal insulation and pressure resistance with adequate buckling stiffness and stacking stability, which are necessary to keep fish cool and safe at the same time. 

In making the packaging foams that have evolved so well-known over the last 70 years, pyrolysis oil substitutes fossil raw materials. BASF sources this oil from technology partners who use a thermochemical process called pyrolysis to transform post-consumer plastic trash that would otherwise be used for energy recovery or go to the trash yard into this secondary raw material. BASF then uses the oil at the very beginning of the value chain to manufacture new plastics and other products.

Since recycled and fossil raw materials are combined in BASF’s production Verbund and cannot be differentiated from each other, the recycled portion is allocated to Styropor Ccycled using a mass balance method. The distribution process and the product itself have been certified by an independent auditor. 

In addition, a certified Life-Cycle Assessment considering the product’s environmental performance infers that compared with conventional Styropor, at least 50 percent of CO2 is saved in the exhibition of Styropor Ccycled.

Styropor Ccycled for each critical application in BASF’s EPS product portfolio

“Chemical recycling of plastic trash is not only an important building block to complete the European circular economy targets but is particularly useful for applications with high requirements for the quality and safety of the material such as protective packaging, pharma boxes, and food packaging. We are thus very proud of the ChemCycling™ project with Bremnes Seashore on EPS fish boxes, and we are happy to have allowed our customer to progress on his sustainability path,” says Klaus Ries, head of BASF’s styrenics business in Europe.

Also, for the converter, VARTDAL PLAST Styropor® Ccycled™ conveys numerous advantages as the product is similar to virgin material. Therefore, the production process does not have to be changed. The company and its products are certified according to the ecoloop certification program, confirming that 100 % recycled material was used as feedstock. 

“Bremnes Seashore has been a customer of VARTDAL PLAST for decades, and we are excited that they are the first customer to choose VARTDAL AIRBOX LOOP, an EPS fish box made from 100 % Styropor® Ccycled™ raw material derived from chemically recycled plastics”, says Jan Endre Vartdal, owner and CEO at VARTDAL PLAST. “Our goal is to transform our entire production from using fossil-based raw materials into using fossil-free or recycled raw materials. The use of Styropor® Ccycled™ raw material from BASF enables us to begin this transformation in close cooperation with our customers without compromising on quality and recyclability”.

Circular economy in action: fish boxes are recyclable and recycled

EPS fish boxes are an essential packaging product within the EPS product family. The first fish box was made in 1965 and has since become a necessary tool for transporting fresh fish worldwide. With an average weight of 0.6 kg per box, the standard EPS fish box can carry 22 kg of fresh fish. In addition, EPS fish boxes are recyclable and recycled widely in Scandinavia and other European countries. 

Therefore, fish boxes are gathered, compacted, and shredded. The shredded EPS fish boxes are then used as feedstock to make recycled polystyrene, used for various insulation boards. “As a plastic producer, we have a responsibility to contribute to getting our products back into the loop.

For this reason, we have set up two high-capacity compacting sites in the middle of Norway and the eastern part of Norway. 

Using return freight, our trucks contain and transport EPS from garbage disposal sites, fish processors, and building and building hubs back to our compacting sites; here, the EPS is shredded, compacted, and palleted, ready for recycling. Our long-term goal is to source the compacted material back into our product series VARTDAL LOOP® which only consists of products made from recycled or fossil-free raw materials”, Jan Endre Vartdal adds.

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