Plastic pellet loss: what are the impacts and possible actions?
Microplastic litter in the Seine estuary – ©SOS maldeseine
Marine litter keeps increasing
Since a couple of years, marine scientists have reported more frequently that birds, turtles and fish ingest a wide variety of plastic objects which can be harmful to their health or even fatal.
The vast majority of this waste (80%) originates from land. Most of these items are debris of used consumer goods, potentially carelessly thrown away or non-intentionally lost.
Plastic pellets: a specific waste
Part of this litter, however, consist of pellets meant to manufacture plastic products.
Mixed with the other marine debris, these pellets are more easily ingested by marine animals. The pellets are small and look similar to organisms which are the preys for certain animals. If they are not passed through or repelled by the digestive system, they, like other litter items, may accumulate and potentially cause malnutrition and starvation.
While consumers are responsible for the proper disposal of used products, the plastics industry must, for its part, ensure containment of the products it handles, namely the plastic pellets.
Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS) is specifically aimed to prevent discharge into water flows and to the marine environment
A challenge for the plastics industry
The characteristics of this microlitter and its discharge to the environment is a collective challenge for all companies in this sector.
- Constant vigilance: Plastic pellets are not household waste. Their management and disposal is neither under the responsibility of consumers, nor of public authorities. They are raw materials.
Their containment outside natural habitats falls almost exclusively under the vigilance of manufacturers and operators in the supply chain.
- Credibility at stake: Operation Clean Sweep® fully meets the commitments made by world leaders in the plastics industry in the “Joint declaration for solutions to the problem of marine litter” signed in 2011, during the 5th International Conference on Marine Debris, Honolulu.
The “stewardship of the transport and distribution of plastic resin pellets and products from supplier to customer to prevent product loss and the encouragement of our customers to do the same” are explicitly listed among the six major goals of the statement.