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 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.
The solution to last month’s challenge to find a better material to produce sustainable packaging for the fish industry comes from Helsinki-based Stora Enso. The company produces renewable packaging made from biomaterials such as wood and paper and has recently launched the EcoFishBox to tackle the problem of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam boxes.
The EcoFishBox is made entirely from corrugated wood products and was designed to tackle the issue of ‘EPS waste mountains’. The box is made from 100% renewable and recyclable materials but is completely waterproof and leak-proof, thanks to a laminated liner and special folding method, which keeps the structure strong when wet.
The box also offers excellent insulation, keeping ice frozen and fish cool – replicating the properties that keep the industry going back to EPS. EcoFishBox reduces CO2 emissions by around 30% compared to EPS and is delivered as a flat sheet, requiring around seven times less storage space, reducing transport costs, and it can be printed with branding and product information too.
Additionally, it avoids the potential for tiny polystyrene balls entering the food stream, making the EcoFishBox a more hygienic and safer alternative to EPS.