SPAIN – Innotech, Coexpan’s innovation and technology center, has completed a trial to produce yogurt pots from polystyrene grade reportedly sourced from household food packaging waste.

The Styrolution PS ECO 440FC MR100 material used in the trials – which involved both European and American markets – was produced and tested to be suitable for food contact, according to the company.

It also asserts that its findings prove polystyrene to be ‘the shortest path to circularity for existing market applications’, as well as being the most appropriate material to package dairy products.

“It is a massive achievement to be able to confirm the success of this exercise,” says Gonzalo Sanchez, head of recycling at COEXPAN, “and the results speak for themselves.”

“Many brand owners want the polystyrene journey to continue, and we now have the proof that mechanically recycled polystyrene offers a solution for their food contact applications.

“This will allow customers to concentrate on their core business rather than looking for alternative materials requiring changes to existing processes and investments into new equipment.”

Dr. Frank Eisenträger, Product Director Polystyrene EMEA, adds: “We have expected for quite some time that polystyrene is an ideal material for the circular economy. Now we have the proof that it is indeed one of the best, if not the best recyclable polymer.

“In fact, polystyrene is all set now to enjoy the highest recycling rates of all polymers. I expect the quality of the mechanically recycled polystyrene to be so convincing that we will see applications that moved on to other materials switch back to polystyrene as new recycling capacities come online.”

SCS develops polystyrene recycling process

Meanwhile, Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS) claims to have developed a recycling process for foamed (PS) and extruded (XPS) polystyrene trays, which it hopes will enable closed-loop recycling for polystyrene products.

Corepla, a partner of SCS, is said to begin the process by collecting post-consumer foamed PS trays and creating a sorted fraction for it in its sorting centers.

This fraction then undergoes high-purity mechanical deep sorting, hot washing, and flake sorting, courtesy of SCS member Tomra in collaboration with Zimmermann.

The subsequent process of dewatering and finishing into PS recyclate was developed by Forever Plast S.p.A.; Versalis (Eni), another SCS member, then puts the recyclate through Magic Pack, a quality assessment and converter and a member of ProFood (Unionplast), and the recyclate is turned into new trays.

To ensure that the trays are food-safe, the recycled PS (rPS) is sandwiched between layers of virgin PS in what SCS refers to as an ‘ABA structure’.

The resultant trays contain 50% rPS, yet they claim to be 100% recyclable overall. A similar use of functional PS barriers was previously utilized by ProFood with rXPS recyclate.

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