Fishy freight

Written by: Eureka! | Published:

Who hasn’t opened up a new product and felt like they’ve been duped by the classic box in a box in a box trick because of the amount of packaging inside. While manufacturers understandably want to ensure products arrive unscathed, the mountains of paper, plastic, cardboard and film that surround items is an environmentally unpleasant and problematic embarrassment.

However, while many are embracing more easily recyclable materials such as cardboard and paper, some areas of the food industry have been slow to move away. Take, for example, the transportation of fish in expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam boxes. These squeaky white containers are commonplace in fish markets around the world and while the material has good insulation properties – the reason for its widespread application – it is an environmental catastrophe as the material is seldom recycled meaning they create mountains of rubbish.

There is also the danger – and frequent complaint by chefs – that the material is left behind on, or even inside, the produce itself. Chefs are getting so angry about it, they’ve started a campaign to ban EPS.

The Challenge

The challenge this month is to therefore come up with an alternative to the bulky white polystyrene boxes commonplace in the fish transportation industry. Any solution should be far less bulky to transport when empty, so perhaps foldable.

Also, when packed, they should be just as good at insulating the cold temperatures necessary to keep the fish fresh. Furthermore, because of all that ice, the material used should not lose integrity when wet and be water-tight.

The aim of the game here is essentially to find a sustainable, renewable and even recyclable material for the fish-packaging industry to embrace.


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Coffee Time Challenge is just a bit of fun, but it is based on a real engineering solution. If you send in your ideas by using the comment button below, we can add your solution as an alternative – perhaps something funny, practical, cheap or, of course, innovative.

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