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Abstract of the report:


A recently published report by FranceAgriMer provides an in-depth analysis of the usage of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) in the European aquatic industry. This extensive report, crucial for industry stakeholders, addresses the staggering annual influx of 35,176 tonnes of EPS into aquatic systems and explores effective recycling solutions and alternatives to EPS. Through meticulous research, including interviews, surveys, and analyses, the report evaluates alternative strategies considering the 3R strategy (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), compliance with health regulations (EC Regulation No 852/2004), and environmental impacts. This study assesses various scenarios to understand their economic and organisational implications better, thereby guiding future regulatory requirements.

The report highlights the critical role of EPS in the French aquatic sector, especially for its superior isothermal properties essential in seafood shipping containers. However, the recycling of these containers remains a significant challenge. While large-scale handlers with compacting facilities have developed effective recycling systems, smaller industry players struggle with logistical constraints and dispersed volumes. A significant portion of EPS containers also comes from imports, complicating the recycling landscape. The report suggests that even a regulatory ban on EPS use in France might not comprehensively address the challenge posed by imported EPS volumes, thereby stressing the need for a more robust recycling infrastructure.

The consensus among industry stakeholders underscores the necessity of EPS in seafood containers, with a complete phase-out deemed currently unfeasible. The report advocates for improving EPS collection and recycling processes, which could significantly reduce the volumes of unrecycled EPS. Stakeholders express support for the idea of consolidating volumes and sharing recycling resources to optimise the process. Moreover, state and regulatory support, along with innovative recycling solutions, are considered essential. The report also discusses testing recyclable or reusable packaging alternatives, acknowledging that this shift would necessitate substantial adjustments in current practices across the aquatic industry’s segments.

A key aspect of the report is its focus on the economic implications of transitioning away from EPS. It estimates a significant increase in costs for various industry players, ranging from 105% to 432% in certain scenarios. The impact on the traditional fishmonger segment, including a potential increase in consumer prices and a decrease in business margins, is particularly highlighted. This economic analysis underscores the complexity of replacing EPS and the need for feasible, cost-effective alternatives.

The report examines the regulatory landscape and its impact on EPS usage in the aquatic industry. It notes the challenges posed by existing and upcoming regulations, particularly in maintaining the cold chain and ensuring product freshness. The study also acknowledges the varied responses of industry players to these regulatory challenges, ranging from exploring alternative packaging solutions to advocating for the continued use of EPS.

In conclusion, the FranceAgriMer report provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities associated with EPS usage in the European aquatic industry. It emphasises the need for a balanced approach that considers environmental responsibilities, practical industry needs, and economic viability. Enhancing recycling systems, exploring viable alternatives, and fostering collaboration and innovation are crucial steps towards a sustainable future in the aquatic sector. The report underscores the importance of regulatory support and industry-wide cooperation in achieving this goal, paving the way for a more environmentally responsible and economically sustainable aquatic industry.