Fresh salmon packed with Styropor Ccycled: The world’s first EPS fish boxes based on chemically recycled plastics introduced in Norway

High-quality BÖMLO salmon filets packed with Styropor Ccycled (Photo credit: Peter Tubaas, Vestland Media)

Fresh fish and ChemCycling – how do these go together? In a joint project, three companies have demonstrated how it works: BASF as raw material supplier for EPS, VARTDAL PLAST, who converted the beads into filet fish boxes and Bremnes Seashore who used the boxes for the transport of some of its high-quality salmon brand BÖMLO as of Christmas 2021.

“The EPS Fish Box is a well-known and trusted companion of ours with excellent properties for maintaining and securing the cold chain during transport. A secure cold chain is vital for food safety and preventing food waste. For us at Bremnes Seashore it’s exciting to try an alternative where the carbon footprint is significantly reduced and we always appreciate initiatives that promote the circular economy,” said Simon Nesse Økland, head of development at Bremnes Seashore.

Food contact approval and virgin-quality packaging

Thanks to its manufacturing process, Styropor Ccycled has the same properties as conventional Styropor. This maintains the excellent packaging properties such as thermal insulation and pressure-resistance with good buckling stiffness and stacking stability, which are essential to keeping fish cool and safe at the same time.

In the production of the packaging foams that have become well-known over the last 70 years, pyrolysis oil replaces fossil raw materials. BASF sources this oil from technology partners who use a thermochemical process called pyrolysis to transform post-consumer plastic waste that would otherwise be used for energy recovery or go to landfill 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 mixed in BASF’s production Verbund and cannot be distinguished from each other, the recycled portion is allocated to Styropor Ccycled using a mass balance approach. Both the allocation process and the product itself have been certified by an independent auditor. In addition, a certified Life Cycle Assessment evaluating the environmental performance of the product concluded that compared with conventional Styropor, at least 50% of CO2 is saved in the production of Styropor Ccycled.

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

“Chemical recycling of plastic waste is not only an essential building block to achieve the European circular economy targets but is especially 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 therefore very proud of the ChemCycling project with Bremnes Seashore on EPS fish boxes and we are happy to have helped our customer to progress on his sustainability path,” said Klaus Ries, head of BASF’s styrenics business in Europe.

Also, the VARTDAL PLAST Styropor Ccycled converter delivers plenty of advantages as the product is identical to virgin material. Therefore, the production process need not be adjusted. The company and their products are certified according to the ecoloop certification programme, confirming that all 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,” said Jan Endre Vartdal, owner and chief executive officer 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 important packaging product within the EPS product family. The first fish box was made back in 1965 and has since become an essential tool for transporting fresh fish all over the world. With an average weight of 0.6kg per box, the standard EPS fish box on average can carry 22kg of fresh fish. In addition, EPS fish boxes are recyclable and recycled widely in Scandinavia and other European countries. Therefore, fish boxes are collected, compacted, and shredded. The shredded EPS fish boxes are then used as feedstock to produce recycled polystyrene which can be used for various applications such as 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 in the eastern part of Norway. By utilising return freight, our own trucks collect and transport EPS from waste disposal sites, fish processors and building and construction hubs back to our compacting sites, where 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 added.