The OceanWise project aims to contribute to reducing the impact of marine litter, specifically marine litter made up of expanded polystyrene (EPS and XPS) (styrofoam and other types of expanded polystyrene plastics). It is intended to develop a set of long-term measures, taking into account the entire life cycle of EPS / XPS products with a view to good transnational management of marine litter in the Northeast Atlantic area.

Focused on the principles of Circular Economy and using participatory methodologies, it aims to generate new and best practices in the sectors that use, manufacture or recycle EPS and XPS. Specific objectives are:
  • Identify the EPS / XPS products most likely to reach the marine environment and impact ecosystems
  •  Propose and test plausible options (reduce, reuse, recycle, recover) to achieve better environmental results in different sectors
  • Involve communities of producers and designers in reflections on the sustainability of specific applications and explore more circular models
  • Develop methodologies oriented towards a circular economy, assess new opportunities, barriers and options for political measures and decisions.

The project is based on the Marine-Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Regional Action Plan for Marine Garbage of the OSPAR Convention, contributing to the development of action No. 49 of this action plan, focused on "the prevalence and impact of EPS in the marine environment ".
OceanWise's objectives are in line with the Circular Economy for Europe dossier.

Investment amount: 2,853,536.78 €, of which 2,140,152.60 € correspond to European co-financing (75%). OceanWise Consortium

DGRM leads the OceanWise project, having partnered with twelve more public and private entities from across the Atlantic arc (Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom). Additionally, the OSPAR Convention is an associated partner. These are OceanWise partners:


  • Directorate-General for Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services (coordinator)
  • NOVA University of Lisbon - Faculty of Science and Technology
  • Ponto Verde Society.


  • Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Planning
  • University College Cork, National University of Ireland
  • Repak, Lda
  • BIM - Bord Iascaigh Mhara.


  • Université Bretagne Sud
  • Cedre - Center de documentation, de recherche et d'expérimentations sur les pollutions accidentelles des Eaux

United Kingdom

  • Cefas - Center for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.


  • Centro Tecnológico del Mar - Fundación CETMAR
  • Sustainability Innovation, Sociedad Limitada - SUSTAINN. A Common Challenge

EPS / XPS in the marine environment is a common problem around the European Union's Atlantic coasts and sea. It is of particular concern because of the large quantities found on the beaches and the risk it poses to marine wildlife and potentially to human health. EPS / XPS is a plastic foam material used globally in packaging and insulation, including as food trays, food / beverage containers and fish boxes. Although EPS and XPS are recyclable, this often does not happen effectively, due to the very low cost-effectiveness of transporting and recycling expanded material.

EPS on a beach (Photo courtesy of Sandra Moutinho)

EPS and XPS weigh little compared to their volume, which makes it very economical when compared to other packaging options. It is also considered safe for use with food. Its lightness has the consequence of being easily blown away by dumps and landfills.

In addition, they are not biodegradable and tend to fragment, and small pieces can travel long distances. Thus, they can become marine litter and fragment into microplastics that persist in the sea and contaminate the food chain. According to OSPAR beach monitoring surveys, small pieces of plastic / polystyrene are among the most common types of marine litter items found.

The OceanWise project aims to address this challenge by developing knowledge to reduce the impacts of EPS / XPS and increase the capacity of competent authorities and key sectors across the Atlantic region to implement more sustainable management options. Website project