Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), a joint industry initiative to realise styrenics circular economy, has announced the successful demonstration of a mechanical recycling process for XPS food trays. 

This demonstration was performed in collaboration with German packaging and bottling company Krones and Norwegian company Tomra.  

SCS said that the latest recycling demonstration is based on the purity mechanical recycling process created for yoghurt pots.  

SCS secretary general Jens Kathmann said: “Next to yoghurt pots, XPS food trays play an important role among polystyrene packaging formats in the circular economy.  

“They can become recycled content in many general purpose polystyrene applications, such as housewares, appliances and insulation.” 

As part of this demonstration, Tomra first utilised a ‘deep sorting’ technique to separate pure form of XPS feedstock from mixed polystyrene (PS) packaging waste, which was collected from households, to further create a pure XPS feedstock.  

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Krones then processed this feedstock material through shredding, hot washing, dewatering, as well as drying.  

According to SCS, this test run helped in validating the technical capability of the process, while also proving its industrial viability, which indicates that it can be executed at typical recycling capacities. 

The effort also showcased the potential for competitive, large-scale recycling with efficient energy and water usage. 

The new recycling process enhances the circularity of XPS trays, which are already known for their effectiveness in ensuring both safety of food and their life cycle assessment.  

To further improve the recycling yield and quality, SCS has introduced a design for recycling (DfR) guideline for XPS food trays, with most trays already complying with these standards. 

TOMRA Recycling executive vice president, head Dr Volker Rehrmann said: “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.” 

In June last year, SCS submitted a new technology notification for recycled polystyrene under the new regulation of European Union.