More than 4,500 Dow Chemical Co. employees have removed more than 40,000 pounds of waste from waterways as part of the largest single-cause volunteer effort in the firm's 121-year history.
The cleanup effort, titled Pulling Our Weight, includes employees, families, friends and customers of Midland, Mich.-based Dow, which is a unit of DowDuPont Inc.
Dow is collaborating with local organizations across the world and Ocean Conservancy, a Washington-based environmental advocacy group, to take part in beach and waterway cleanups at more than 50 global locations to bring attention to the issue of ocean plastic pollution.
"No waste — plastic or otherwise — belongs in the ocean or anywhere in our environment," Dow CEO Jim Fitterling said in an Oct. 11 news release. "Through global and local collaborations with governments, NGOs, and other industry leaders, Dow is working to innovate technologies to recycle waste, clean up existing waste and support initiatives that prevent waste from entering the environment."
In an Oct. 11 interview with Plastics News, Haley Lowry, Dow global sustainability and end use marketing director, said that "as a plastics manufacturer, we want to be held to a higher standard."
"With all the pressure that plastics is facing, we wanted to do more to start a movement," she added. "We want to encourage our customers to start their own efforts and give them something to rally around."
The cleanup effort launched Sept. 15, coinciding with the annual International Coastal Cleanup effort organized by Ocean Conservancy. About a dozen more Dow groups will participate through Oct. 15, Lowry said.
The event challenged volunteers to remove at least 4 pounds of waste per person from local waterways and communities. That's the average amount of waste that each person on earth produces each day, Dow officials said.
Certified collection bags used by Dow volunteers were made in North America by Polykar Inc. of Saint-Laurent, Quebec, and Winpak Ltd. of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Bags used in Europe were made by recycling firm GCR and packaging maker Plasticos Romero, both of Spain.
For cleanups in the U.S. and Canada, 270,000 of the bags were made, with 128,000 made for use in markets such as Mexico, Portugal, Guam and parts of Africa. The bags were made of recycled plastic, and used Dow's Retain-brand compatibilizer technology.
"This year, Dow volunteers have participated in more cleanups than ever before and I am so impressed with the level of commitment from our employees around the world and extended Dow family," said Diego Donoso, president of Dow's Packaging & Specialty Plastics business.
Fitterling added that advancing a circular economy is a key component of Dow's 2025 Sustainability Goals.
"It's clear to us that addressing end-of-life options for plastics waste will be one of the most important business opportunities of our time," he said.
Dow is one of the world's largest plastics and chemicals makers. The firm is a major producer of polyethylene as well as of elastomers and other specialty plastics. DowDuPont is expected to split into three separate public companies — Dow, DuPont and a third firm — by June 2019. In 2017, DowDuPont posted sales of $79.5 billion.