A hand holding a circular earth

Polyethylene Resin Manufacturers Team Up to Put Pellets In Their Place

Global initiatives such as Operation Clean Sweep are mobilizing resin manufacturers, plastics converters, and carriers to commit to achieving zero pellet loss from operational and logistical inefficiencies.

By Shell Polymers on Apr 09, 2021

Plastic products offer brands a variety of benefits such as lower transportation costs due to being a lightweight material, reduced chance of breakage during transit, and more cost-effective price per pound.

Because of its value to converters, brands, and consumers alike, plastics are in high demand and it is important for polyethylene resin manufacturers and converters to take steps to be responsible with it. This extends beyond encouraging end use recycling by the consumer. In the resin production and transportation processes, loose resin pellets, flakes, and powder can be lost, finding their way into the environment. That means every segment of the plastics industry has a role to play in reducing plastic waste – including resin producers, transporters, bulk terminal operators, recyclers and plastics processors.1

By implementing good pellet, flake, and powder containment best practices, resin producers and converters can play a starring role in plastic waste management. We also believe that we are just one part of the solution to reducing plastic waste. Social responsibility is a larger team effort that all our people are committed to supporting. We are a dedicated community with shared values that partners with the OCS program to show our commitment towards achieving zero pellet, flake, and powder discharge and drive change in our industry. Our involvement with like-minded, sustainability-focused organizations goes back to our core values of running a safe, efficient, responsible business.2

The Hidden Costs of Plastic Pellet Pollution

At the core of Operation Clean Sweep’s mission is educating the industry on the impact this issue has on our environment. They explain that spilled pellets, flakes, and powder can make their way into local waterways and ultimately estuaries and the ocean.3 Unfortunately, this doesn't just mar natural landmarks with litter. It also can be mistaken for food by birds or marine animals and harm them.". Pellets, flakes, and powder, if accidentally mistaken for food by birds or marine animals, could harm them.4 This leads to additional costs to monitor ingestion by species and clean up coasts and beaches,in addition to hurting local revenue by deterring tourism.6

Explore how Shell is helping contribute to environmentally sustainable facilities

Three Ways Resin Producers Can Support Pellet Loss Prevention

Commit to Making Zero Pellet Loss a Priority

Becoming accountable to international sustainability initiatives like Operation Clean Sweep or the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) is an excellent starting point. OCS’ new member level, OCS Blue, recognizes plastics companies excelling within the existing program by enhancing the commitment to management, measurement, and reporting of unrecovered plastic releases. As an OCS Blue member, Shell Chemicals LP has committed to internal audits of management systems, site inspections, participation in OCS best practices events, and more.7

Loss Prevention and Containment Procedures

To reduce plastic pellet, flake, or powder in operations, companies must bring awareness of the issue to its employees and partners, adopt best practices for pellet/powder control, and strong equipment maintenance guidelines. As part of its goal to support resin producers, OCS developed prevention, containment and clean up guidelines for the industry.8

OCS Blue members like Shell Chemicals LP take it a step further and commit to establish written procedures and checklists for actions inside member-operated facilities to locate potential risks, prevent pellet loss, and manage clean up. We also aim to use our relationships with customers to further our commitment to pellet loss prevention. In accordance with our pledge, we will also provide annual metric data to the American Chemistry Council9 or PLASTICS10 on any unrecovered release of plastic pellets or granules.11

Employee Awareness and Training

Employee participation across all areas of the facility – from management offices to the plant floor – is critical to meeting loss prevention and containment goals. To empower their employees to be part of the solution, OCS Blue members are expected to:

  1. Conduct regular training and new employee onboarding for resin-handling employees on awareness and accountability for pellet loss prevention, containment, and clean up. 
  2. Enable employees to provide feedback on the company’s pellet containment program.
  3. Reinforce the company’s OCS commitment among its workforce and business partners.

In addition to educating employees, OCS Blue members pledge to educate partners across the supply chain, such as transportation companies, and encourage their participation.

Operation Clean Sweep is just one way we’re working towards a more sustainable future. In 2019, Shell released its ambition to use one million tons of plastic waste as feedstock at our chemical plants by 2025. This is an important step towards building a circular economy by using plastic waste to produce chemicals, which can be used to make plastics again.

We’ve already started at our Norco chemical plant in Louisiana, which successfully uses feedstock made from plastic waste. Our intention is to scale up the technology and deploy it at our chemical plants in North America, Europe and Asia, gradually achieving world-scale production by 2025.12

At the end of the day, the responsibility of pellet loss containment has to be a group effort amongst resin producers. Pledging to be a part of the solution and joining a community of companies all driven by the same goal puts the industry that much closer to rectifying the problem.

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1 https://www.plasticsindustry.org/resources/industry-programs/operation-clean-sweep#:~:text=Operation%20Clean%20Sweep%20(OCS)%2C,out%20of%20the%20marine%20environment

2 https://reports.shell.com/sustainability-report/2019/introduction/our-approach-to-sustainability/sustainability-at-shell.html

3 https://www.opcleansweep.org/about/plastics-in-the-environment/

4 https://www.opcleansweep.org/about/

5 https://www.ospar.org/documents?v=39764

6 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X18300523

7 https://www.opcleansweep.org/pledge/ocs-blue/

8 https://www.opcleansweep.org/manual/prevention-containment-cleanup-procedures/

9 https://www.opcleansweep.org/about/about-acc/

10 https://www.opcleansweep.org/about/about-plastics/

11 https://www.opcleansweep.org/pledge/ocs-blue/

12 https://reports.shell.com/sustainability-report/2019/responsible-business/environment/plastics.html