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It's time we backed expanded polystyrene

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It's time we backed expanded polystyrene

He says: “It’s time we as an industry and as manufacturers busted some of the myths which have begun to achieve traction and a degree of credibility in the mainstream press – and the first myth we must bust is the assertion that EPS cannot be recycled. It can. It is 100 per cent recyclable.”
LINPAC Packaging is speaking out after the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg indicated that he was keen to introduce a law banning the use of EPS – best known under the trade name Styrofoam – in the city.
Mayor Bloomberg said: “Something that we know is environmentally destructive, that is costing taxpayers’ money and that is easily replaceable is something we can do without. We will work to adopt a law banning Styrofoam food packaging from our stores and restaurants.” He added Styrofoam was “virtually impossible to recycle.”
LINPAC Packaging makes EPS trays and other products in the UK at both its Featherstone and St Helens sites, and across Europe in Poland, Germany, Italy, and Spain, and believes it is time to hit back at the growing tide of criticism of EPS. Plans for a new law in New York follow the introduction of similar legislation in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
Alan says: “It’s high time we put the case more robustly for EPS as a key material in the food packaging sector and highlight its environmental credentials. The British Plastics Federation, through the BPF Expanded Polystyrene Group, has done a good job so far in educating food manufacturers, processors, and retailers about the environmental, health and food safety benefits of EPS but we now need to ensure the myths bandied about by politicians and other pressure groups are shown to be what they are – untruths based on no credible science or research.
“We can no longer stand by when politicians claim that EPS is ‘virtually impossible to recycle’ when it is 100 per cent recyclable.”
In reality, the biggest environmental threat relating to food packaging at present is food waste. A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said that food waste was being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers which encourage shoppers to buy more food than they need and consumer fussiness. According to the study, between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of the four billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year goes to waste. When the carbon footprint of the food contents dwarfs that of its packaging by ten to 20 times, it is frankly criminal to dwell on the impact of the packaging.
EPS – particularly in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) applications – offers excellent protection qualities and protects and presents food well. Its insulating properties extend food shelf life to help reduce food waste and as a result the EPS tray, right across Europe, continues to be very popular with retailers and customers.
Alan says: “Given that EPS is 98 per cent air, it is also one of the lightest packaging solutions on the market significantly reducing transportation costs and thus further reducing the manufacturers’ and retailers’ carbon footprints. Its excellent insulation and protective properties make it ideal for takeaway food, even more so because it can be molded into portioned servings.”
But, crucially, we are arguing that foamed materials meet all the requirements of modern packaging with regards to the environment and recycling. It is has a very low carbon footprint, can be fully recycled and be re-introduced into the material cycle meeting all sustainability requirements. Indeed, EPS’s image is largely the very result of the products success and of its ubiquity with consumers, who sometimes see it dumped in the streets by less sociable citizens. While EPS is perfectly recyclable few local authorities can economically collect and process it, precisely because it has such low density and low carbon input.
In Germany 98 per cent of returned EPS packaging is recycled and in the UK there are 25 sites which recycle EPS. During energy recovery, one kilo of EPS replaced 1.4 litres of domestic fuel and other EPS packaging is recycled for use as insulation for houses and buildings – indeed, the majority of EPS produced is for the construction sector.
Alan says: “Perhaps part of EPS’s image problem is down to the litter left in the street after someone has eaten a takeaway. However, litter is just waste left in the wrong place and we should not penalize packaging because of someone’s anti-social behaviour.
“Quality packaging can significantly reduce waste across the entire supply chain by giving food a longer shelf life and ensures food can be transported around the world safely and securely.”
So here’s 12 myth busting facts to help the packaging industry defend EPS and its environmental benefits:
•    EPS is 100% recyclable
•    EPS is a good example of the efficient use of natural resources – it is 98% air.
•    The manufacture and use of EPS does not generate any risk to health or to the environment.
•    EPS does not damage the ozone layer since it does not use CFCs or HCFCs in the manufacturing process.
•    The transformation process consumes little energy and does not generate waste.
•    The use of EPS for thermal insulation in the construction industry contributes significant savings on heating and cooling buildings and a drastic reduction in the emission of polluting gases CO² and SO²).
•    EPS packaging protects products, helping to reduce wastage and its lightweight nature helps to reduce fuel consumption.
•    EPS packaging can come directly into contact with foodstuffs as it meets all the prevailing international health regulations.
•    Fungi and bacteria cannot easily grow on EPS.
•    EPS makes up only a tiny part of Municipal Solid Waste (0.1%).
•    EPS holds a high calorific value. 1kg of EPS is equivalent to 1.3 litres of liquid fuel, making it an ideal material for energy recovery.
•    As it does not biodegrade EPS does not contaminate the air or water with gases or hydro soluble substances.

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