Jürgen Lang, EUMEPS Director General, and Lea Salihovic, Sustainability Advisor, were invited to Malta by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Cyrus Engerer to discuss Malta’s ambition to reach full EPS circularity. The visit was also the occasion to meet various Maltese stakeholders to talk about the implementation of the project and to tackle the different issues faced by EPS companies on the island.
Jürgen Lang (middle) and MEP Cyrus Engerer (right), at the visit of BITMAC
How the Smart Packaging Europe campaign brought together EUMEPS and Malta
In 2022, EUMEPS held an event dedicated to innovation, recycling and the EPS industry’s progress towards circularity: “EPSolutely!” where circularity of EPS packaging was the focus the centre of circularity. As a speaker at this event, MEP Cyrus Engerer gave precious insights into the major legislative initiatives under consideration in the European Parliament such as the new regulation on waste shipments, to only name one. Malta, the home country to MEP Engerer, is particularly aware of this topic: from the island, EPS waste is currently shipped to China – a situation which greatly concerns EUMEPS which advocates that every EPS bead should be recycled in Europe to be transformed into new high-quality products since EPS is 100% recyclable.
Well-aware MEP Engerer also emphasised during the EUMEPS event the importance of keeping waste resources on the continent and finding ways for packaging to be properly collected and reused or recycled. “Our event EPSolutely! was the occasion to formally and officially launch the Smart Packaging Europe Campaign”, explains Jürgen Lang, “It was presented for the first time to European stakeholders such as MEP Engerer who also participated in the panel discussion of the event and agreed with our core statement: packaging should be as resource efficient as possible. He also agreed that there is no “one-size-fits-all-solution”. Indeed, MEP Engerer particularly liked the word “smart” used in the Smart Packaging Europe campaign which fits the various characteristics of EPS packaging depending on the use and the types of goods transported or packaged with EPS.
Lea Salihovic (EUMEPS), Jürgen Lang (EUMEPS) and MEP Cyrus Engerer (European Parliament) at WestServ Malta.
The opportunity for a recycling project in Malta
Following the EPSolutely! the event, EUMEPS and MEP Engerer met several times to tackle the EPS waste situation in Malta and explore possible ways to secure recycling in Europe.
A visit of EUMEPS to Malta was quickly organised and took place in May 2023. “I rapidly got in touch with our recycler members as EPS waste volumes are too small to be recycled on the island. Sorting out EPS waste is already very efficient in Malta, so it is truly a question of where and how EPS should be recycled”, added Jürgen Lang. Indeed, in Malta EPS waste from households is already widely collected with other plastics and then sorted out. Now it is time to collect and recycle also the industrial EPS – mostly fish boxes “Our mission is clear: every single EPS bead – or Jablo as is it called in Malta – shall be recycled and not a single one shall be left behind”, said Jürgen Lan in a Linkedin post shortly after the visit to the island.
The purpose of the visit was very clear: laying the foundation of the recycling project with the ambition of making Malta a frontrunner in EPS recycling by underlining its advanced position on sustainability and environmental policy. To deliver this ambitious goal, MEP Engerer facilitated the contact between EUMEPS and local stakeholders including government representatives and EPR organisations: U-recycle, Greenmt, WasteServ Malta Ltd., representatives of ERA and finally BITMAC.
These meetings allowed the EUMEPS team to better assess how to implement the recycling project and also to discuss important EPS Industry related topics such as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, and how waste treatment facilities operate in Malta. Additionally, Malta’s official representatives, such as MEP Engerer, explained their position on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and made EUMEPS aware of the special needs of European territories such as islands and other marginal areas.
Reaching full circularity in Malta: what’s next?
Meeting with MEP Engerer and local stakeholders was of course the first step of many others to implement the ambitious recycling project. There is more to do, for instance assessing how the project could properly be implemented. EUMEPS is currently waiting for the project plan of WasteServe which will have an important role to play in the project as Malta’s waste manager: WasteServe will roll out a plan as to how to collect EPS fish boxes on the island.
The second step will be securing the funding for the planned project and connecting the Maltese authorities with EUMEPS’ recycler members. “We discovered that EPS is sorted out manually from the normal plastic waste. This is a very expensive method, but the Maltese Government sees it as an investment for the future. Thus, only fish boxes need to be collected to be recycled which is logistically much easier”, concluded Jürgen Lang.
EUMEPS is very proud to be contributing to the project in Mata, thus showing that EPS packaging not only can be recycled on a high scale but that EPS material is indeed part of a future circular Europe.