Newsletter 03_2021


A danger in the Atlantic (still) looking for a solution

The OCEANWISE and INTERREG Atlantic Area project joined efforts of several entities to prepare a document through which we could, for the first time, have a clear idea of the impact of this material on marine pollution and what management alternatives are advisable or not. After a full analysis of the market and the science that has been developed to find solutions to this marine problem, the OCEANWISE report established a series of conclusions. A kind of conduct guide, so that mistakes are not repeated and to encourage the finding.

Port Reception Facilities: Portugal went further

It’s made to function as port means for receiving waste from ships, to be made available by the managing entities of the ports to their users. And the legal framework for this directive is not new. But, in Portugal, Port Reception Facilities recently gained another dimension.

The ocean calls for alternatives and a winner emerged

OCEANWISE project and Sociedade Ponto Verde promoted the OCEAN’S CALLING contest, which promised to award 25 thousand euros in a project or idea that would develop an alternative, better use or better recycling of EPS or XPS packaging. The company Storopack, one of the main packaging manufacturers in the world, was the big winner, with the presentation of the Seaclic project.

Four questions to: Teresa Franqueira

She argues that, without design, sustainability is difficult to achieve. Teresa Franqueira is a professor and researcher at the Department of Communication and Art at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, and was elected, in past December, the international coordinator of the network for social innovation and sustainability of the DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability). We went to meet her and took four questions with us.




How many and how much? When talking about the EPS/XPS market, the answer is not simple. How much, in terms of volume, EPS and XPS is manufactured? Who are the main manufacturers of EPS and XPS? What are the used products EPS and XPS to generate? Who are the key customers?

How many and how much? When talking about the EPS/XPS market, the answer is not simple. How much, in terms of volume, EPS and XPS is manufactured? Who are the main manufacturers of EPS and XPS? What are the used products EPS and XPS to generate? Who are the key customers?

We can see EPS waste surfacing on sea waters, turning into garbage. But there is little detailed information available about this big market nor strong awareness about the damage it causes to the marine ecosystems (and beyond). Also, this data is commercially sensitive information for companies. In order to fill this gap, the OceanWise project created an in-depth research based on the track of 14 European countries. The report, called WORK PACKAGE 5.2 FINAL REPORT, is focused on this big market and was assigned to OceanWise partner Repak, the sole packaging compliance scheme operating in Ireland.

We can start exactly by tracking the road this material travels: what purposes does it serve, anyway? The spectrum of uses for EPS and XPS is wide. The applications include insulation manufacturing, construction industrial applications, engineering industrial applications, also vehicle, automative parts, electronic goods, electrical / white goods, consumer goods and disposable manufacturing. But, as we know, also seafood and fish processing, aquaculture and hydroponics, seed and plant growing, food processing, wholesaling and retailing, pharmaceutical distribution, pontoons (marinas), e-Commerce, custom designs (interiors, events), apiary management (bee-keeping) and marine uses (buoys). The list seems endless. And so it is because there is always a new discovery about another feature of this material.

The next question asked by this study was to know how this list is representative in the 14 countries analyzed. We toured Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

About the size of EPS manufacturing/transformation industry, Italy stands out highly from the rest, producing about 40% of the EPS packaging used in the EU. What the study itself shows is not a surprise: “not surprisingly, Italy, with by far the largest number of EPS manufacturers of the listed countries.” Why? “Is not clear; there is no indication that the state encouraged investment in this particular industry at any stage”.

For now, one certainty : all these countries import EPS and XPS and “there is a strong possibility that the EPS / XPS that is found as marine litter emanates from some or all of these countries”.

But to look at this market goes far beyond analyzing what is going on within each of these countries. We live in an era of globalization, nations are not watertight and, therefore, everyone depends on everyone. When talking about the use and production of EPS/XPS, it is no different. Therefore, it was necessary to analyze exports and imports.

Italy, for example, supplies about 40% of EPS packaging in the EU. The Plastics Europe made the estimate: there was 300 kilo tonnes of EPS demand in Europe in 2017, and also 388 kilo tonnes of waste EPS generated across the EU. In addition to the large quantities that are imported outside the EU, especially in materials such as white goods and electronics.

Putting everything in perspective, here are the 15 findings of this study.

Let’s focus on a particular threat that leverages what is the OceanWise motto: promoting solutions and alternatives to reduce EPS and XPS in the marine ecosystem. This threat is the use of this material for packaging, namely for the transport and conservation of fish – where the impact on the sea becomes more evident (but not the only one). This study reminds us that the use of EPS and XPS for this purpose has spread due to factors of quality of physical and thermal conservation, the weight and the price practiced in the market – “it is relatively cheap”.

But it also reminds us that “what makes it so attractive for packaging, becomes a distinct disadvantage after being used”. This means the fact that EPS is 98% airborne means that it does not make sense to transport it in its original form, since it becomes a waste. And the good it brings has not made up for the damage it does.

Despite this, its use remains widespread. Disregarding the use for the construction sector, EPS and XPS in fish boxes represent 23% of the applications of this material in Europe. A higher value (37%) is only found for domestic packaging. Equally important is the application of these materials in industrial and commercial packaging, representing a 21% share of this total. What constitutes a major concern in these times: “the rise of online shopping, where items are delivered either directly from the manufacturer to the consumer, or from a distribution centre, has also resulted in an increase in packaging generally, as reported by Repak, the packaging compliance scheme in Ireland”.

Percentage of EPS Used for Non-construction Related ApplicationsSource: European Association of Plastics Recycling & Recovery Organisations (EPRO) EPS Seminar Brussels, 2016


But there is good news. The impact of fish boxes on EPS marine waste is expected to be less than thought at the start of the project. After contacting industry sources and investigating the use of this material in fishing ports, it was found that the boxes are not necessarily used in the trawlers, “since they would not withstand rough handling”.

When the fish arrives at the EPS boxes, it is already unloaded, either on the pier or during transportation to the sales points. “EPS fish boxes are generally used on a business-to-business basis.”



Still, this impact on marine litter depends on the impact of the extension of the fish market. Take a look at the table below, where we are able to assess which countries carry out the most fish transactions, both for import and export. Highlight for countries like Netherlands, Spain and Germany.

Fish Production and Trading Data – Sources: Referenced in footnotes


Legally binding solutions are arising to curb the EPS /XPS plastic pollution, and recent measures  are positive, according to the OceanWise report. The document recalls that the biggest legislative evolution in terms of plastic packaging in general, “and EPS / XPS specifically”, passed the EU Directive 2019/904, published on June 5, 2019. A directive that focuses on “reducing of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment “. For this very reason, it became known as the Single Use Plastics Directive.

Materials made from EPS, such as beverage containers, drinking glasses, and probably more significantly, and food containers, are even on the list of disposable plastic products “whose sale will be banned in mid-2021”.

“This is very new legislation which has is currently being transposed by the EU Member States, so it remains to be seen how the producers of EPS and XPS food containers will deal with the obligations imposed by the Directive in the future. Despite the details, the manufacturers of those containers and cups which are in widespread use across the focus countries, must be reviewing both their EPS and XPS production lines as a consequence of the Directive, as the sale and use of these products is likely to change significantly in the next 2-3 years”, explains the document.

The abolition of products made from this material is already a reality in cities around USA, for example. And the expectation is high for what Europe’s position on this topic will be in the coming years.




Anouck Le Crann is responsible for the Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) of the fishery port of Lorient, a French commune in the administrative region of Brittany with about 60 thousand inhabitants and overlooking the River Blavet. She tells us how, from here on, she saw the change happen, when the French ports started to offer EPS and XPS compactors.

The idea inspired the world and there are countries that are also beginning to invest in the creation of compactors in their fishing ports – previously without a solution for fish, EPS and XPS boxes.

“The reflection was initiated in 2013 because local business in the fisherie sector had a large stock of polystyrene waste and were considering a compaction activity but did not have space for compaction (Polystyrene boxes are used for the packaging of fishery products).” In this port, the production of compressed EPS has been monitored since 2015, two years after the initiative to put compactors in the ports. And the numbers accompany a reduction in the use of EPS / XPS.

The volume of EPS/XPS consumption in this port  (*)2020 is considered a non significant year due to the international health context

SEM Lorient was not the first port to adopt the measure and this, too, was inspired by what was done elsewhere. Anouck tells when feasibility studies started, “another fishing port was already equipped” with compactors: Les Sables D’Olonne. “But for compacting less important quantities.”


At Lorient, the compactors arrived in August 2013. Two, of medium capacity – and not a single and larger one, to facilitate the work of operators, the only ones authorized to use as machines. The advantages became obvious: the reduction in waste volumes. Although it also brought its limitations: “certain fish products can be greasy and block the borer”.

The vision for the future in this port is ambitious: the team wants to take on the responsibility of continuing with the compaction, “until the ban on polystyrene”. And French law seems to have brought them closer to these goals. “As part of the climate bill, French MPs adopted an amendment on April 2 that prohibits from 2025 food packaging made in whole or in part from styrenic polymers or copolymers.”



Contrary to the old saying, everything that happens on OceanWise does not stay on OceanWise. “All action developed will be part of the range of recommendations to be integrated in the policy process” and “the whole participatory process has contributed to create bridges within the different identified categories, establishing new partnerships resulting from the networking promoted by the project participatory sessions ”.

Lia Vasconcelos, who is responsible for the development of stakeholders’ engagement at OceanWise is very clear about the role of her team in the project. This month, we dedicate our four questions to her.

How many countries are involved? Who are OceanWise stakeholders today?

The project Ocean Wise involves five countries – Portugal, Spain, France, United Kingsom and Ireland. Presently, OW works with a total of 994 identified stakeholders. The participatory team of OW has launched a stakeholder mapping that resulted in the identification of 8 categories, namely raw material supplier, EPS/XPS products and packing industry, retail/supplier/industry, final consumer, end life (recycle and reuse), policy makers, researchers, alternative EPS/XPS products and other.

There were already three rounds of workshops that could count with rounds of about 50 to more than 100 stakeholders. The stakeholders from the five countries encompassed representatives of several sectors of activity directly or indirectly related to EPS/XPS life cycle, in areas such as, Environmental Management, Waste Management, Industries of production and recycling of expanded polystyrene, Companies of material production, Fisheries, Aquaculture, Food Distribution, Academy and Non-Governmental environmental Organizations,  Machinery Manufacturers for EPS waste uptake, Port Authorities,  Marine Litter and Waste Policy entities, users and legislators.


How is the stakeholder engagement process designed?

The interactive and interactive identification of stakeholders is structured in 4 phases. Each phase is fed by the previous one in a growing continuous loop.

All country partners were responsible to organize in their country the various planned workshop and to bring the stakeholders to the process. Before the workshops, the countries teams received a throughout training – Promoting Dialogue among Coastal Communities Multi-Stakeholders in Public Governance – aiming to capacitate partners to implement collaborative methodologies involving multi-stakeholders along the development of the project. To ensure a homogeneous the workshops carry out in each country follow the same motto operandi and methodology, coordinated and articulated by the participatory team. 

These workshops intended to promote the opportunity to progressively engage EPS/XPS stakeholders to actively contribute to OceanWise, exploring the experience and knowledge from a diversity of stakeholders in different countries, fulfilling the project objectives. 


So far, three of the four workshops were accomplished, targeting the following issues. How can expanded plastics fit into the Circular Economy? Building actions to address EPS/XPS presence on the ocean? How will Europe fit EPS/XPS into the circular economy?”

In the first two Stakeholders Workshops, the participants were able to explore the relation between EPS/XPS and circular economy and to elaborate roadmaps for commons uses of EPS/XPS products with the objective to achieve a 100% circular economy and to avoid/decrease the occurrence of these products in the ocean. In this 3rd, the workshop was held simultaneous in the five countries of the OceanWise project, the objective was to go further and deeper on this, and to obtain a detailed list of actions to face the presence of EPS/ XPS in the ocean and simultaneous allow for exchanging of experiences between participants from the various countries in the project to develop joint actions for the Atlantic Northeast area.

The fourth and final workshop entitled “#Be OceanWise – Solutions to prevent EPS / XPS from marina waste”, is in preparation and will be held in September 2021. It intends to be a wrap-up to consolidate the actions recommendations list that should be considering at European policies regarding the EPS/XPS as a source of marine litter.

What challenges are going on, at this moment, in this scope?

Besides the preparation of the final workshop, a Delphi survey was applied to the Atlantic North-East Stakeholders, namely the ones related with the EPS/XPS life cycle (Raw Material Supplier (manufactures in Europe); EPS/XPS product packaging industry (packaging association, cluster or platform); Retail Supplier Industry (producer market (central); supermarkets); Final Consumer (fishing/aquaculture industry)). 

The Delphi is a popular mean of forecasting future scenarios and is used to determine the range of opinions on particular matters, to test questions of policy or others, and to explore (or achieve) consensus on disputed topics. The Delphi method has its own distinct characteristics, and it uses a group of participants (known as ‘panellists’) specially selected for their particular expertise on a topic.  For this, the OceanWise team prepared a set of 33 achievements regarding EPS / XPS and other expanded foamed plastic in the short-medium-long term.

It was asked to several stakeholders considered experts in their areas, a total of 45 panellists, to carefully analysed each of the 33 hypothetical achievements and give us their opinion, regarding the time period for the Achievement, the countries which already meet the requirements or gather the know-how required for accomplishment and to identify the main constraints to accomplishment / achievement. 

This was the 1st Delphi round took place between July and October 2020 and these results are being treated and already give a set of multiple hints of the main issues and level of importance, not only for each category of stakeholder, but also geographically to each country partner. 

What has come out of stakeholder meetings you would highlight?

wo aspects emerge out of the stakeholders’ workshops, one is the sound outputs that the participatory team leave the experts of this scientific area to comment on it. The other part, more relevant for the participatory team that is responsible for assure a sound process related to the outputs, namely the building up of social (partnerships and networks), intellectual (new knowledge often resulting from the crossing and articulation of different types of knowledge that seldom have the possibility to be confronted or used in complementary ways) and political ( generating a more intense and wider influence in this area of expertise, creating what in theoretical terms is called a community of practice). These are the outcomes that have been emerging out of the different participatory session, and that hopefully in the long range will be capitalizing by influencing policy related issues at the European level, based in more sounded joint proposals developed within and/or with the engaged stakeholders.