As You Sow seeks transparency on plastic pellet spills from resin producers

Transparency puzzle pieceShareholder advocacy group As You Sow (Oakland, CA) is at it again, this time filing shareholder proposals to hold Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., DowDupont and ExxonMobil accountable for pellet spills from their operations that produce resin. The proposals ask for annual reports disclosing spills and measures taken to prevent and clean them up, said As You Sow’s latest release. As You Sow claims that plastic pellets are estimated to be the second largest direct source of microplastic pollution in the ocean by weight.

Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), a program started 28 years ago by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) in cooperation with the American Chemistry Council, developed a program to implement best practices to control pellet spills at resin manufacturing plants as well as plastics processing facilities.

Conrad MacKerron, Senior Vice President of As You Sow, said, “The industry’s effort to deal with pellet spills, Operation Clean Sweep, provides no transparency on the scope and nature of spills or efforts made to clean up. Given what we know about the alarming rates of plastic leakage into oceans, companies can no longer hide behind vague pledges of best practices. They need to provide prompt and detailed disclosure about specific actions taken to prevent spills, and when spills occur, information on spill size and actions taken to clean up.”

Pellet spills at processing plants have received much attention over the past couple of decades and most processors as well as resin producers are well aware that these spills can have negative environmental impacts. Pellet spills are also expensive—spilling plastic pellets results in higher costs for the processors, something they try to avoid.

The Dec. 5, 2018, issue of The Clean Sweep newsletter provides profiles of companies that participate in the Plastics Industry Association’s program. Inteplast Group in Lolita, TX, signed up in June 2014, and although the facility was already implementing resin loss and spill prevention practices, the company wanted to align with the OCS, according to Dan Martino, Senior Director, Texas Administration.

Martino explained that his team is “tasked with creating guidelines and policies that address resin control and loss prevention across the manufacturing facility. These policies are utilized by each plant in Lolita when developing specific controls within the manufacturing process. Our team also audits and monitors the 576-acre site for any uncontained resin.” The company is striving for a “zero pellet loss environment.”

Jared Deal, Compliance Manager at King Plastics Inc. (Orange, CA), said that his company joined in 2014 after he “observed signage for Operation Clean Sweep on the side of a railcar of resin in our receiving area,” said a profile in the OCS newsletter. Deal then visited the OCS website and realized that “we had already implemented several best management practices as part of our storm water pollution prevention program, making OCS a natural extension of that program.”

PLASTICS provides many other profiles of its OCS members that prove many companies are working hard to prevent pellet spills in order to save both money and the environment. All companies, including large processors as well as resin producers, are working to prevent spills of valuable plastic pellets. Companies typically are responsible for resin spills and don’t want to waste valuable resin.

While there may be no reporting requirements from members of PLASTICS’ Operation Clean Sweep, the increased work being done by all plastics companies is evident by their awareness of these spills. As You Sow’s efforts involve negative PR for the plastics industry and responsible plastics companies in an attempt to give them a “black eye.” They might want to learn that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

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