Localisation: La Rochelle (17)

Secteur: Material valorization

Date of création: 2001

Date of meeting: 09/04/2021

Maturity of the project : Mature

Association for the protection of the seas and the coastal environment.


During a transatlantic crossing, David Beaulieu, the founder of the association, receives the echo of the sea. Beyond words, he was keen to implement concrete actions for the protection of the sea and the environment. In July 2001, he founded the Echo-Mer association in La Rochelle. The first actions concern the recycling of used batteries in the port. Very quickly, the association became more generally interested in the activities of the nautical world.

The actions of the association are based on two main axes: education and the revalorization of materials. The recycled materials are used sails, oyster bags, cork and neoprene.

The association wishes to limit the impacts of pollution caused by Man on the marine ecosystem.

Translated with (free version)

Since January 2020, Echo-Mer has valued :

  • 362 kg of oyster bags
  • 1,745 t of corks
  • 763 m² of boat sails
  • 62 kg of neoprene

Industrial and territorial ecology through the mutualization of flows between actors. The valorization of the various materials allows to make work companies or associations of the region.

Recycling by the chains of valorization set up by the association

Project operation

To listen to David Beaulieu present the project, you can watch the video at the bottom of the article!

2001: Collection of batteries in national ports, Operation Pontoon

Before 2001, there was no place in the ports where used batteries could be collected. Collectors (old tennis ball boxes) were made available in the ports. First in the port of La Rochelle, then in the ports of Charente Maritime and now in all the ports of France.

As an example, 500 kg of batteries are collected each year in the port of La Rochelle alone.


2002 – 2003: survey and awareness-raising among shipyards

At that time, the management of toxic waste was poor or non-existent. We had to wait until 2008 for boaters and then 2015 for companies before we had adequate management of this waste. Every year, 50 tons of toxic waste are thrown away.


2004: “stop plastic bags” on the island of Ré

This action aims at reducing waste at the source. The operation has allowed to divide by three the quantity of plastic bags on the island.


2008 : alternative management of pesticides

Why is it essential to better manage pesticides? After being used in the fields, these substances infiltrate the soil where they join the watercourses that all converge in the same place: the sea. Echo Mer participates in a more reasoned management of pesticides through awareness-raising actions and conferences.

In 2005, the association launched the operation ‘Pesticide no thanks’ and then set itself the objective of banning the use of pesticides along the quays of La Rochelle. After several months of struggle, the use of pesticides was finally banned on the edges of the quays. The vegetation has developed again and in particular the sea fennel, a halophilic plant with interesting properties.


Four materials are recovered and recycled by the association: used sails (2008), oyster bags (2010), cork (2012) and neoprene (2016).


A second life for boat sails:

Boat sails are subject to many environmental constraints (wind, UV…) giving them a lifespan of 5 to 10 years. This period can be reduced to one year for regattas. Historically, sails were made of natural fibers such as linen or hemp. Over the years, new and more resistant materials have appeared such as polyamides, polyethylene or carbon fibers. These are synthetic materials and therefore not biodegradable.

With such a short turnover, it seems important to give a second life to these materials that can still be used. This is the mission of Echo-Mer, which recovers used boat sails and advertising tarpaulins. These materials are then transformed into a wide range of products from simple accessories to canvas bags.

These valuations are made in the prison workshop in Mont de Marsan (40) where eight workers are trained in professional sewing on machines. Each piece produced is unique.

This valorization prevents the incineration or the burying of the used cloths and the advertising tarpaulins.


Revalorization of oyster bags:

The bags used for the culture of oysters are manufactured on base of plastic. There are few channels of recovery of used oyster bags. They are incinerated or remain stored in the oyster basins. They then degrade and are sources of environmental and visual pollution.

Echo-Mer works in partnership with Navicule Bleue, an ESAT (Etablissement de Service et d’Aide par le Travail) located in Arvert, to valorize the oyster bags. The latter are transformed into paper baskets, shopping baskets, mulch for gardens, etc.


Collection of corks:

One of the uses of the neoprene baskets is to serve for the collection of corks in restaurants and waste disposal sites.

More than 80% of the cork production is destined to the manufacture of wine bottle stoppers. At the end of their life, these corks are incinerated or buried. However, cork has thermal and phonic insulation properties.

Echo-Mer set up the operation “Here, that corks” which is declined in three stages:

the collection of corks from waste disposal centers, restaurants and individuals in Charente Maritime.
the crushing of the corks is carried out by Ovive, a company located in Périgny.
the creation of a local industry: cork shreds are used for thermal and phonic insulation of floors and ceilings. They are also used as filling for poufs and cushions made from used boat canvas.

In order to be even more impactful, Echo-Mer organizes numerous awareness campaigns. These sensitizations are adapted to all ages.


Interventions in schools:

The association sets up awareness campaigns in schools, from primary to high school. They are adapted to the age of the public concerned. Following the interventions, waste collection operations are organized on the beaches of La Rochelle.


Eco-citizen walks:

Between April and October, about ten walks are proposed by the association in partnership with the port authority. These walks are done around the basins of the Chalutiers and the Gabut district in La Rochelle. These walks are an opportunity to address different environmental issues such as pollution or the impact of our lifestyle on the pollution of ports.


Cleaning the port, also called the “Épuise ton déchet” operation:

Since 2020, Echo-Mer and the La Rochelle marina have been working together to fight pollution in the harbor waters. Every Monday and Friday, waste collection afternoons are organized. Volunteers armed with landing nets survey the pontoons with the ultimate goal of recovering as much floating waste as possible. The operation aims to fight against visual and environmental pollution in the harbor waters.

Harbors are particularly prone to the accumulation of land-based waste that is carried by the wind, transported by waterways or caused by incivilities. The tide also brings detritus that is carried through the lock gates.

Sustainable approach

The Echo-Mer association aims to protect the marine ecosystem through its various awareness and recovery actions.

The valorization of used sails and oyster bags, corks but also neoprene allows to limit the operations of incineration and burying of the waste.

Through its various recovery operations, Echo-Mer allows the implementation of new waste recovery channels.

For the valorization of sails and oyster bags, Echo-Mer works with the penitentiary center of Mont Marsan and Navicule Bleu which is an Establishment of Service and Help by Work.


These actions tend to be repeated on a national scale since marine pollution is everyone’s business.



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