EPSolutely - Development of a circular economy concept in the plastics industry using the example of EPS

In a system-wide cooperation of all relevant actors of the EPS value chain system, concepts, technologies and methods for an EPS circular economy are developed. The integration into an overall concept with optimised logistics and transport systems should enable the transformation of linear EPS value creation systems into a circular economy.

Short Description

Running Time

01/2022 – 06/2024

Starting point / motivation

The industrial extraction and processing of resources have an ever-increasing impact on the environment and result in high greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. A promising approach to reduce primary raw material use, waste generation and pollutant emissions is the concept of circular economy. According to studies, the Austrian EPS industry (EPS: expanded polystyrene or Styropor) currently achieves recycling rates of 26% for building materials and 56% for packaging. However, a large part of this EPS waste is not recycled in the sense of a circular economy but processed in applications such as levelling or thermal insulation fillings or lightweight-concrete and thus devalued. Through this downcycling, EPS is irretrievably removed from the value-added cycle and valuable resources are lost. In the case of building materials, the increasing quantities of EPS waste containing hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) from demolitions pose an additional challenge to the introduction of a circular economy. Recycling without separating the flame retardant HBCD, which was used until 2016, is not permitted due to the ban on its use.

Contents and goals

The aim of the EPSolutely research project is to recycle EPS waste in the sense of a circular economy and thus reduce the primary raw material demand for EPS production by using secondary raw materials. The intended transformation of linear value creation systems into a circular economy enables the reuse of resources, the avoidance of pollutant emissions and the protection of the environment. In EPSolutely, a system-wide cooperation of all relevant actors within Austria as well as transnationally takes place. The development of cross-company and interdisciplinary concepts, technologies and methods in the areas of deconstruction, collection, sorting, cleaning and processing, the recording of waste flows, the construction of prototypes, laboratory-scale tests and integration into an overall concept with optimized logistics and transport systems for EPS packaging and EPS building materials enable the transformation of linear value-added systems into a circular economy.

Methodological approach

Through desktop research, workshops, and expert interviews, the state of the art, relevant projects and initiatives as well as the current framework conditions in all areas of the EPS value chain are analyzed and documented. The EPS material flows in Austria are categorized according to the requirements of a circular economy and quantified by using material flow analyses, expert interviews and statistical evaluations. In workshops, the relevant process strands and material flows are defined, transparency is created in the entire value-added system by means of process analyses, and the development requirements for an EPS circular economy are derived. Using the morphological box, possible procedures along the EPS value chain are analyzed and documented. Based on this, different circular economy scenarios including the required concepts, technologies and methods will be developed and evaluated according to different criteria (ecological, economical etc.). The most promising overall concepts are selected and implemented on a pilot basis. The knowledge gained from this serves as a basis for optimising the concepts developed, creating a holistic implementation concept for an EPS circular economy and deriving the measures required for this in Austria.

Expected results / conclusions

The result of EPSolutely is a concept for the introduction as well as a lab-scale tested circular economy for EPS in Austria. By involving all relevant stakeholders, the necessary framework conditions for the introduction of an EPS circular economy on a large scale are defined and communicated. In a final analysis, the transfer and scaling potentials of the concepts, technologies and methods as well as the findings from the demonstrations will be transferred to other countries and industries and documented.

Project Partners

Project management

  • Karl Ott


  • Fraunhofer Austria Research GmbH

Partners of the project consortium

  • Austrotherm GmbH
  • Flatz GmbH
  • Hirsch Porozell GmbH
  • LIEBHERR-Hausgeräte Lienz GmbH
  • Lindner-Recyclingtech GmbH
  • LuSt Malereibetrieb & Vollwärmeschutz GmbH
  • O.Ö. Landes-Abfallverwertungsunternehmen GmbH
  • PORR Umwelttechnik GmbH
  • Saubermacher Dienstleistungs AG
  • Steinbacher Dämmstoff GmbH
  • SUNPOR Kunststoff GmbH
  • XXXLutz KG


Contact Address

Theresianumgasse 7, A-1040 Wien
+43 1 504 69 06