Plastics industry body Plastics|SA is calling on role-players to work towards achieving the goal of zero pellet, flake and powder loss.
The local plastics industry has reiterated its commitment to keep the country’s water sources free of plastic pollution. Plastics|SA executive director Anton Hanekom notes that reducing the amount of plastics that make their way into streams, rivers and the ocean is one of the biggest focus areas for the plastics industry globally.
Plastics|SA was one of the first signatories of The Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter, a global declaration and public commitment by the international plastics community, signed in March 2011, to address the issue of plastics in the marine environment.
Operation Clean Sweep – an international initiative from the plastics industry to reduce plastic pellet loss to the environment – was developed as an important step towards implementing the core principles of this declaration.
“When we relaunched Operation Clean Sweep in South Africa as one of our product stewardship programmes last year, our call went out to every segment of the plastics industry, including plastic producers, transporters, bulk terminal operators, recyclers and plastics processors, to implement good housekeeping practices,” Hanekom highlights.
He emphasises that every employee of every factory has a role to play if the industry is to achieve the goal of zero pellet, flake and powder loss. “We need the commitment from everyone to help protect the environment and save valuable resources.”
Pellet, flake and powder loss has several negative impacts on individual companies, the plastics industry as a whole and the environment. Pellet, flake or powder spills in factories are one of the causes of accidents in the plastics industry, resulting in lost work time, higher worker compensation costs and lower employee morale. Once spilled, the materials can end up in waterways and the ocean if they are swept into storm drains instead of properly cleaned up and discarded.
Further, all employees in all areas of the industry must be educated on how to properly handle and dispose of plastic pellets with the goal of zero pellet loss, Hanekom states.
While consumers are responsible for the proper recycling and disposal of used consumer products and packaging, Plastics|SA agrees that the plastics industry is, among others, responsible for proper containment of plastic pellets, flakes and powder. The impacts of ingested marine debris can be significant and warrant efforts to prevent plastic materials from entering the environment.
“Eliminating pellet, flake and powder loss is not only beneficial for the environ- ment, but also for business performance. While our ultimate goal is to help keep plastic pellets, flakes and powder out of the environment, these efforts can also help improve relations with stakeholder groups and community organisations that expect the industry to minimise its environmental footprint,” Hanekom puts forward.
Moreover, companies can enhance their reputations as good stewards of the environment – an increasingly important factor for attracting the investment community and high-quality employees.
“By ensuring that raw materials are not wasted, businesses can improve their bottom line, increase efficiency and leave a lasting legacy for future generations by helping us turn the tide on marine litter,” he concludes.