Preventing plastic pellet loss

Hand filled with little plastic beads

Three-quarters of the garbage found in the sea is made of plastic and about 13.000 plastic particles are floating on each square kilometer of the sea’s surface according to the German Federal Environment Agency. The plastic poses a growing danger to birds and sea dwellers that swallow the small parts and consequently suffer of respiratory disorders.

But not only the poor waste treatment in certain countries, the improper disposal into the environment and the waste from fisheries and shipping industry contribute to an increase in garbage. Plastic pellets, originally intended for further processing, are also found at the beaches and in the stomachs of marine animals.

While waste management industry and consumers are responsible for the appropriate disposal respectively processing of consumer waste, the entire plastics industry has to focus on a safe handling of plastic pellets throughout the value chain. Unprocessed, the pellets are unobtrusive and can be easily overlooked. This bears an increased risk for the fine pellets to be spilled and to end up in the environment during production, transport to the customer or further processing into the end product or recyclate.

Operation Clean Sweep®

Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS) is an international program that strives to prevent plastic pellet, flake and powder loss and to ensure that these materials don‘t end up in the environment. The OSC was  initiated by the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) and the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) many years ago.

Within the program, companies from the plastics industry value chain commit to the implementation of “good housekeeping” practices and contribute to a clean environment with pellet loss prevention. Plastic manufacturers, processors and distributors, logistics and recycling companies all share a common goal: zero pellet loss. Because the responsible handling of pellets not only protects the environment, but also allows a more efficient processing of the products.

Close up shot of hand pouring out little white beads

BASF’s contribution to Operation Clean Sweep®

To prove its commitment to a clean environment, BASF has become a partner of the OSC-initiative in 2014 by signing the OCS pledge. The company implements the OSC with the following measures:

  • Identification and removal of identified potential sources of pellet loss (e.g. truck loading and unloading)
  • Technical improvements of worksites such as installation of special retainers and strainer inserts to collect pellets as well as tools that are integrated in the daily job routine
  • Employee trainings which draw attention to the challenges of pellet loss such as marine litter, occupational safety and environmental safety, prevention practices (cleaning and collecting) as well as employee motivation
  • Monitoring of progress
  • Engaging our value chain partners to participate in the initiative. 

The goal is to examine ongoing processes and improve them if necessary as well as to sensitize employees and our industry partners in order to jointly prevent plastic pellet loss.