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Five European countries want to end this worrying source of marine litter. Being a material of many qualities, the prevention of leakage of discarded foamed polystyrene products (EPS and XPS) to the environment, and ultimately to the oceans presents several challenges in a transition to a circular economy.
Portugal, Ireland, France, Spain and United Kingdom launched OceanWise, a three years initiative to reduce the impact of foamen polystyrene products in the North-East Atlantic Ocean.
Foamed polystyrene is one of the leading consumer plastics. Expanded polystyrene and extruded polystyrene are plastic foam materials used globally in building insulation and packaging including as food trays, fish boxes and drink and food containers. In 2014, building and construction accounted for 62% of the global uses of foamed polystyrene, packaging 33% and the remaining 5% are various applications, such as interior decoration in contruction buildin, for instance.
This is a worrying source of marine litter in the Atlantic. Foamed plastics are very durable, so they accumulate in nature, damaging ecosystems. Also, they are absorbent, which means they act like pollutant sponges. And being lightweight, they get blown by the wind. In the oceans, EPS and XPS products break down into tiny fragments. These can be eaten by plankton, fish and seabirds and as such enter the food chain.
Now, for the very first time, several countries decided to work together to solve a problem that is, silently, threatening our oceans and marine wildlife.
OceanWise – Wise reduction of foamed polystyrene marine litter in the North-East Atlantic Ocean is a three years project (Jan 2018 – Dec 2020) designed to develop long-term measures to reduce the impact of EPS and XPS in the North-East Atlantic Ocean.
The team of OceanWise includes 13 partners from 5 Atlantic Area countries – Portugal, Ireland, France, Spain and United Kingdom – which will work with the relevant industries: fishing industry (fisheries and aquaculture), food goods industry (supermarket chains, e.g. vegetables, fish, meat, fruit), consumer goods (appliances) and producer responsibility organisations.
Based on circular economy principles, OceanWise will identify priority EPS foam products; propose and test plausible options; engage producer and designer communities and develop circular economy-oriented tools for managers, planners and other stakeholders.
OceanWise, with a total budget of 2,8 million euros, is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) INTERREG Atlantic Area, under Priority Axis 4 – Enhancing biodiversity and the natural and cultural assets.
OeanWise includes 13 partners ranging from national governmental organizations and operational agencies to knowledge centres from the 5 countries of the Atlantic arc. In addition, the OSPAR Secretariat has joined as associated partner, thus adding further institutional support and advice to the project, as the OSPAR Convention includes all the competent national public authorities of the North-East Atlantic area.
DGRM – Direção-Geral dos Recursos Naturais, Segurança e Serviços Marítimos (PT)
Universidade NOVA de Lisboa – Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (PT)
Sociedade Ponto Verde (PT)
Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Planning (IE)
University College Cork, National University of Ireland (IE)
Université Bretagne Sud (F)
Cefas – Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (UK)
BIM – Board lascaigh Mhara (IE)
Centro Tecnológico del Mar – Fundación CETMAR (ES)
CEDRE – Centre de documentation, de recherche et d’expérimentations sur les pollutions accidentelles des Eaux (F)
Sustainn – (ES)
ICCI Sea Bird (F)