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Life Cycle Analysis for EPS

Published: 06-02-2019

EPS Nederland commissioned a so-called Life Cycle Analysis scan of processing routes for EPS packaging waste.

In order to determine the environmental impact of the EPS processing routes, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Quick scan was carried out by the sustainable innovation agency Partners for innovation from the Netherlands. EPS Netherlands provided the assignment in collaboration with its partners, STAV (foundation Waste Fund packaging) and Nedvang. This research focuses on the most important factors that determine the environmental impact of a product or process. With a limited effort, a good perspective is obtained of 80-90% of the environmental impact of the products life cycle. An LCA Quick-Scan lends itself perfectly to an initial inventory for process optimization and to determine the environmental impacts of different product or process scenarios.

For EPS packaging waste, the method that is used by EPS Netherlands (mechanical recycling in order to re-use EPS in insulation boards for construction) is the best processing route with the lowest environmental impact. By using recycled EPS in the production of insulation boards, the production of new material is saved. 5.3 tons of CO2 savings are achieved per tonne of recycled EPS, compared to incineration in a Waste-to-Energy Plant *.

* 5.3 tonnes of CO2 are saved per tonne of EPS recycling compared to waste incineration. This is equivalent to driving 53,000 km in an average new car (100 grams / km), or more than half of the total annual CO2 emissions of a Dutch person (source: MilieuCentraal).

The chemical recycling route is the best solution for the 'non-clean' (old) EPS insulation material from the building industry, because the brominated HBCDD can be separated from the material. This has a clearly lower environmental impact than incineration. As long as this scenario is not yet possible, burning of EPS material originating from construction will remain the only possible route for EPS that contains HBCDD. 

At the moment, a lot of work is being done to build a factory that makes it possible to recycle HBCDD containing EPS by using chemical processes. We hope that the "PolyStyrene Loop" (PSLoop) project will be operational in the course of 2019, so that the footprint of HBCDD material is also improved.