SCS, Krones and Tomra demonstrate recycling process for XPS food trays

  • A successful test run on Krones’ pilot process for foamed polystyrene confirms feasibility, industrial efficiency and recyclate quality of the mechanical recycling of XPS food trays.
  • SCS has defined a circular design guideline for XPS food trays, further promoting their recycling.

BRUSSELS, May 3, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), the value chain initiative to realise the circular economy for styrenic polymers, today announces the successful demonstration of the mechanical recycling of XPS food trays in partnership with Tomra and Krones. It is based on the high purity mechanical recycling process developed for yoghurt pots. Building on the high sortability of all types of polystyrene (PS), Tomra first used ‘deep sorting’ to produce a pure XPS feedstock out of mixed PS sorted from separately collected household packaging waste. Krones then shredded, hot washed, dewatered and dried this feedstock. The test run demonstrates not only the technical capability of the process, but also the industrial feasibility to realise it competitively at typical recycling capacities, and with favourable levels of energy and water consumption.

This process adds circularity to the widely appreciated effectiveness of XPS trays in ensuring food safety and their superior life cycle assessment. To further promote their circularity by maximising the recycling yield and quality with this new recycling technology, SCS has developed a design for recycling (DfR) guideline for XPS food trays. Most XPS food trays are already in line with the guideline.

Dr. Michael Gotsche, Head of Krones Recycling, said: “We are pleased to have demonstrated with these trials that our leading washing technology also works for XPS food trays.”

Dr. Volker Rehrmann, EVP, Head of TOMRA Recycling, added: “Effective sorting of (post-consumer) material is essential in transitioning to a truly circular economy. The ease with which polystyrene can be ‘deep sorted’ has continued to impress us since we established the sortability of its various types and formats, and this time confirmed for XPS trays.”

Claudio Bilotti, New Polymers Initiatives and Sustainable Products Manager of Versalis (Eni) and Board Member of SCS, commented: “XPS trays play an essential role in ensuring food safety for fresh meat and fish. After their first use, they are a valuable circular resource for many additional life cycles.”

Jens Kathmann, Secretary General of SCS, said: “Next to yoghurt pots, XPS food trays play an important role among PS packaging formats in the circular economy. They can become recycled content in many General Purpose PS applications, such as housewares, appliances and insulation.”

Note to Editors:

A 2019 peer-reviewed life-cycle analysis (LCA) by Fraunhofer found that mono-material XPS meat trays have the lowest environmental impact compared to viable alternatives – even without considering the significant, more recent progress with their recycling.

About Styrenics Circular Solutions

Styrenics Circular Solutions is the value chain initiative to realise the circular economy for styrenics. The initiative engages the entire value chain in the development and industrialisation of new recycling technologies and solutions. It aims to strengthen the sustainability of styrenic products while improving resource efficiency within the circular economy.

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Twitter/X: @SCS4Circularity

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