Eastman Chemical Co. will begin public reporting on spills of resin pellets, becoming the sixth plastics manufacturer to do so after reaching an agreement with shareholder activist group As You Sow.
AYS announced Dec. 15, 2020, that it is withdrawing a proposal seeking a shareholder vote on the measure at the company's annual meeting, after Eastman said it would start public reporting on spills in its 2021 Sustainability Report. That report is due to be released in late 2021.
Eastman joins ExxonMobil Chemical Co., Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., Dow Inc., Westlake Chemical Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. in agreeing to public reporting, according to the Berkeley, Calif.-based environmental shareholder advocacy organization.
The industry's Operation Clean Sweep program to combat pellet spills and leakage at factories does not require individual company disclosure. The trade associations running OCS announced last year they would begin collecting and reporting spill data, but it would be aggregated across the industry.
"The industry does not yet require public reporting of pellet spills," said Conrad MacKerron, AYS senior vice president. "We are proud that all public spill reporting commitments to date are the result of As You Sow's engagement leadership. Baseline data from such reporting helps policymakers and other stakeholders assess the scope of this growing problem."
AYS said pellet spills are estimated to be the second-largest direct source of microplastics in the oceans. It points to incidents like a large shipping accident on the Mississippi River in August that sent pellets into the waterway, and where it said no formal cleanup started for three weeks.
The group also noted the $50 million settlement that Formosa Plastics Corp. USA agreed to in 2019 to end a pellet pollution lawsuit brought by conservation groups in Texas.