It's time for all companies that handle plastic resin pellets to join Operation Clean Sweep, an initiative designed to minimize the loss of resin pellets to the environment.
It's easy to implement, it requires no dues or fees and it's the right thing to do.
Plastics resins sold in pellet form are shipped through various means — in boxes, trucks, railcars, barges — to a broad mix of companies that make products with these pellets. If not well-managed, pellets can be spilled into the environment where they can be difficult to retrieve. If pellets reach waterways, they can be washed out to sea.
Over the past few decades, researchers have reported that seabirds, turtles and fish are ingesting plastic litter in the marine environment. Some of this litter is from consumer products or packaging. However, some consists of resin pellets, which might not pass through the digestive tracts of marine life, and can contribute to malnutrition and starvation.
While consumers are responsible for the proper disposal of the products they use, companies throughout the plastics supply chain also must take responsibility for keeping pellets out of the marine environment. It's a company's role as a good neighbor — and as a proper steward of the environment.
Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) was created in the U.S. in 1992, and its importance has been confirmed over time as the understanding of marine litter has grown. Today, manuals and tools designed to improve good housekeeping practices are available online to companies that handle plastic pellets, including resin producers, transporters, bulk termi¬-
nal operators and plastics pro¬cessors. The goal: achieving zero pellet loss.
Implementing OCS for most companies is not complicated. In fact, many companies already are implementing best practices in this area. OCS provides a turnkey approach to reducing pellet loss that can readily be incorporated into existing product stewardship efforts.
In addition, companies that "Take the Pledge" to implement OCS can join with others in the plastics value chain to publicize the good work of this voluntary initiative.
And frankly, preventing pellet loss not only is good for the environment — it's good for the bottom line.
Pellet loss is both a local and an international issue, since marine litter knows no boundaries. It can be solved only by product stewardship efforts of individual companies throughout the global plastics value chain.
That's why the goals of OCS were incorporated as a commitment under The Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter in March 2012.
Since that time, numerous national plastics associations have launched OCS in their countries by signing licensing agreements to utilize the initiative's tools and resources. To date, 11 countries have signed licensing agreements, and OCS materials have been translated into French, Spanish and Portuguese. In addition, other national plastics associations are implementing pellet-containment initiatives similar to OCS that meet the global declaration commitment.
The Society of the Plastics Industry, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are working together today to enhance Operation Clean Sweep and expand participation. The initiative was launched more than two decades ago. We believe it's time for all companies that handle plastic resin pellets to "Take the Pledge" and join Operation Clean Sweep.
For more information on how to "Take the Pledge" and access free tools and resources, please visit: www.opcleansweep.org. Canadian companies/facilities please visit: www.plastics.ca/ocs.
Bill Carteaux is president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., Carol Hochu is president and CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, and Steve Russell is vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council.