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.

It is nev­er good to see EPS on beach­es, espe­cial­ly because it is 100% recyclable.
AuthorDaniel Costa