Mission Is-possible: Industry focuses fight against beach litter
Although there are many unjustified claims about the prevalence of expanded polystyrene (EPS) in the marine environment, it is never good to see EPS on beaches. Beach litter, regardless of where it originates, hurts the environment and our ecosystems, and it needs to be tackled.
The EU-wide beach litter data that the EU institutions rely upon don’t specifically call out EPS due to its low volume. Indeed, less than 1% of all litter items found on EU beaches has been clearly identified as polystyrene (EPS is just one of several materials in the polystyrene category). A report found EPS fish boxes in some beaches — but only as 0.02% of all litter. Still, regardless of these numbers, the EPS industry has put this fight as one of its main objectives for the years to come.
EUMEPS, the European EPS industry association, a key supporter of Smart Packaging Europe, has been a founding member and partner of Operation Clean Sweep (OCS). The OCS works on stopping the leakage of plastic pellets during production, transportation, handling, or even during its recycling across Europe. This operation has been successful in its fight, with 85% of facilities considering that the implementation of the OCS programme had had a positive impact on their operational pellet management.
BEWI, another Smart Packaging Europe supporter and EUMEPS member, is quickly expanding its collaboration with Doca Pesca to collect EPS fish boxes for recycling in fishing ports across Portugal. In Sesimbra, near Lisbon, they installed retention cages where fish boxes can be deposited in one accessible place, allowing for easier collection while preventing any waste from ending up in the sea. These boxes can then be picked up and recycled in BEWI’s recycling plant.
In Greece, on the other hand, the EPS national association, EPS Hellas, is supporting an initiative led by the non-profit organisation Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation to put in place an experimental net for the cleaning of surface waters from plastic waste. The results of the trials showed that it can collect large amounts of floating debris, while it also does not trap marine organisms.
These are only some of the many initiatives that the EPS industry has put forward to combat beach litter all over the continent. The EPS Industry continues to work with other stakeholders to further improve the performance of these initiatives.