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Annually, over 1,500,000 m3 EPS packaging is brought onto the Dutch market. By tightening quality criteria for processing and new market opportunities, a large part of this can be collected and/or processed more sustainably. Currently, less than 10% of the EPS packaging is collected registered. Quality criteria leading to the highest possible recycling, in combination with manageable collection costs are essential for municipalities according to EPS Nederland.

On 14 June 2018, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management informed VNG of the significance of carefully handling EPS flows and separately collecting and processing them in a correct manner. This is due to the possible presence of HDCC in EPS construction products. Construction polystyrene foam with an average of 0.7% HBCDD should therefore be collected separately as much as possible and processed for destruction of the HBCDD. According to the Ministry, research has shown that in particularly at municipal waste disposal sites, the separation of HBCDD-containing construction polystyrene foam and HBCDD-free packaging polystyrene foam is not optimal. This creates mixed streams whereby average concentrations above the 0.01% are found and possibly even the development of above 0.1%. These mixed streams are not allowed to be recycled (above 0.01%) or to be used in products. For this reason, it is important to apply a good separation of ‘packaging foam’ and ‘building foam’ at waste disposal sites.

EPS Nederland has taken the initiative to come up with a sustainable chain solution for discarded EPS, from collection to recycling. EPS Nederland invests in new technologies in order to have more sustainable collection and application of material reuse. The patented collection vehicle of EPS Nederland, ‘the EPS Convertor’, stimulates awareness and material reuse. By carrying out the collection and processing of EPS on site and thereby making it visible, double advantage is yielded. EPS Nederland works together with manufacturers, municipalities, collectors, processors and Nedvang. Since EPS Nederland is based on the white label principle, the service is and remains accessible to all chain partners. According to EPS, this is a primary condition for connecting chains. By sharing experiences, it can be examined how the collection and processing of EPS can take place as sustainable as possible. In cooperation with municipalities and implementing organisations, were are currently researching and testing, at a number of locations in the Netherlands, the ways in which separating, sorting, collecting, and recycling EPS can be as sustainable, efficient and effective as possible.

It is time for change

Dutch processors/manufacturers want to recycle more used EPS. The demand for used EPS among various manufacturers is greater than the supply. EPS Nederland strives to maintain high-quality EPS streams, in order for these raw materials to be reused by EPS manufacturers as much as possible. However, as the burning of EPS and downcycling is still a current practice due to economic reasons, deviation from the trend needs to take place. After all, destroying raw materials is at odds with the objectives that have been defined

From: The raw material agreement

Our society on what the earth and the economy offer us: we use raw materials for food, shelter, heat, clothing, electric appliances and mobility. The need for raw materials will increase in the coming years, in the Netherlands as well as in the rest of the world. At the same time, we are still wasting many raw materials with which we lose unnecessary value, pollute the environment, and influence the climate. The transition that is needed for this means a strong challenge for all partners. It will be a time-consuming and complex process in which partners innovate and experiment together, in which they learn to think and work in a circular way, flexibly anticipating new insights and developments.

From: LAP3

Keeping waste materials separate is a means to ensure waste management takes place in a safe manner and to achieve as much recycling as possible. Thereby, waste management contributes to a circular economy. The possibilities for recycling waste are largely determined by the nature and composition of the waste. It is important that the recycling possibilities are taken into account when creating and managing waste.

Sectorplan 85

EPS falls under category 28 of Appendix 5 of the LAP3: expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) with a concentration of HBCDD of less than 1,000. Based on the separation policy as described in chapter B.3, waste of this category must in principle be kept separate from each other, from other categories of waste and non-waste. Municipalities: on the basis of the Environmental Management Act, article 3.115, second paragraph under i, EPS must be stored separately at the municipal environmental street. In case EPS is not stored separately on the municipal waste disposal site, the same level of waste separation must be achieved by means of post-separation or in another way, with which the same level of recycling can be achieved as what would have been achieved by keeping it separate on the municipal waste disposal site.

See policy framework B.3 Waste separation
B.3.5.2. Companies: EPS must be kept separate if the quantity exceeds 24 litres per week.

EPS is not a regular plastic stream and is (therefore) separate from the current collection structure of plastic packaging (Plastic Heroes). Post-separation is not an option for EPS recycling. Currently, there is not an effective and efficient uniform and nationwide solution for the collection of EPS yet. This limits the reuse and recycling potential.

The circularity of EPS

Collected EPS can be optimally reused in the Netherlands. After a selection on quality, EPS packaging materials and other non-HBCDD containing EPS (construction) materials can be processed and immediately used as a raw material (in the Netherlands) without chemical processing. For example for the production of high-quality insulation boards and walls. The life span of these plates is 30-40 years. The material can subsequently be reused after recycling.