€21,000 awarded

A major source of marine plastics pollution is expanded polystyrene: a type of plastic that when puffed with air is lightweight, buoyant, water-resistant, and an excellent insulator. For these reasons, expanded polystyrene is a popular choice for the crates used in the seafood industry. But these advantages come at a steep cost. Once in the marine environment, foamed polystyrene fragments can persist for decades, if not hundreds of years, where they present a chemical and physical risk to marine species. Foamed polystyrene is a particular threat because of its propensity to rapidly fragment into microplastic pollution, and microplastics are a disproportionately serious problem: firstly, because of their ability to be eaten by almost all marine species; and secondly, due to their high surface area to volume ratio, enabling them to collect high amounts of toxic chemicals.

To address these issues in the Versilia coastal region of Tuscany, TEF is funding Marevivo for the project Bluefishers aimed at combating marine pollution caused by polystyrene boxes used by the fishermen of the port of Viareggio. Marevivo is one of the oldest environmental organizations in Italy and has been active for more than 35 years. It focuses its campaign on biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, enhancement and promotion of marine protected areas, pollution, and illegal fishing.

The Bluefishers project comes from the desire to start a medium- to long-term project that effectively fights the marine pollution from polystyrene and at the same time contributes to helping local fishing communities appreciate and value the importance of best practices and the contribution that each of them can give to the ecological transition. The Bluefishers project consists of the replacement of polystyrene boxes with reusable and recyclable polyethylene boxes. Among the various alternatives to polystyrene on the market were found reusable and recyclable polypropylene boxes from DuWo, that just recently were presented and approved in Brussels as part of EU’s mission ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters’. Once their cycle of use is over, they can be recycled into new boxes for the fruit and vegetable sector, and other products or used in the composition of the road surface. The activities will be carried out by the national headquarters with the collaboration of the Regional Delegation of Marevivo Tuscany, the Fishing Citadel of Viareggio, and local institutions (City, Coast Guard, Port Authority, etc.). The goal is to help reduce the number of polystyrene boxes used for fishing, maintain a high level of attention to the problem of pollution caused by this material, and at the same time raise fishermen’s awareness on the importance of promoting the practice of reusing and recycling, to continue in the direction of a genuine circular economy. The project Bluefishers provides for the involvement of 58 small craft fishing boats which will be delivered 40 reusable and recyclable polypropylene boxes each, for a total of 2,320 boxes. The boxes will be delivered already equipped with a microchip whose function is to track both the catch and the boat and allow sanitization. It can be activated at a later stage when the fish market of Viareggio is equipped with special computer systems and an integrated washing system (local assessments are ongoing). At this stage, the fishermen of small-scale artisanal fishing will be able to wash and sanitize the DuWo cassettes independently with the use of an ecological sanitizer, according to the HACCP regulation. If after the 2 years of use for which the boxes are guaranteed, due to any wear and tear a replacement is necessary, the manufacturer provides for the withdrawal of the wear-out box and guarantees fishermen the best economic conditions for the purchase of new boxes.

TEF has been able to fund this project thanks to Depeche Mode and Hublot through the Memento Mori Tour charity partnership.

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