Energy and chemicals group Sasol has become the first South African raw material supplier to the plastics industry to become a signatory of Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) – an international stewardship programme designed to prevent resin pellet, flake and powder loss and help keep this material out of the marine environment.
According to Sasol, this is aligned to its commitment to providing chemicals and energy in a responsible way and respecting the environment by continually improving performance to reduce and avoid adverse impacts.
Sasol executive director Bernard Klingenberg says the company, as a responsible polymer producer, aims to join other companies along the plastics value chain in ensuring that polymer pellets are manufactured, transported and stored responsibly until it is converted into the final product.
“Through OCS, Sasol will further [reduce] our environmental footprint by ensuring that our polymer is managed responsibly throughout the manufacturing life cycle stages to prevent any release into the environment.”
Plastics South Africa (SA) is the licensee and project coordinator for OCS in South Africa's plastics industry.
As a signatory of the joint declaration for solutions to the problem of marine litter – which took place during the fifth International Conference on Marine Debris, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2011 – Plastics SA joined the international plastics community’s commitment to address the issue of plastics in the marine environment.
Plastics SA sustainability director Douw Steyn says spilled pellets, flakes and powder can make their way into local waterways and ultimately estuaries and the ocean.
“This is not just an eyesore and a litter issue. Pellets, flakes and powder can be mistaken for food by birds or marine animals and could harm them if ingested.”
As part of its plan of action to implement OCS in South Africa, Plastics SA has developed a detailed toolkit and a manual that contains guidelines to help plastics industry operations managers reduce the accidental loss of pellets, flakes and powder from the manufacturing facility into the environment.
To date, more than nine local companies, as well as the producer responsibility organisations – such as Petco, Polyco, the Southern African Vinyls Association and Polystyrene Association of SA – have taken the OCS pledge on behalf of their members and agreed to six commitments to establish demonstrable environmentally responsible processes.
These include improving worksite set-up to prevent and address spills; creating and publishing internal procedures to achieve zero operations plastic material loss; providing employee training and accountability for spill prevention, containment, clean-up and disposal and auditing performance regularly. They also include complying with all applicable State and local regulations governing operations plastics waste containment and management, and encouraging value chain partners (contractors, transporters, distributors) to pursue the same goals.
Klingenberg says Sasol has conducted internal assessments at its South African production sites and implemented improvements which include reinforcing good housekeeping practices, employee awareness and implementation of screens on drains.
“In addition, Sasol is in the process of engaging with supply chain partners to assist them, where necessary, in adopting these important practices.”
Leading up to the signing of the OCS pledge, Sasol undertook various activities towards becoming an OSC member which included education and awareness sessions, production facility audits, and conducted self-assessments questionnaires along Sasol’s supply chain.
Plastics SA states that it is highly appreciative of Sasol’s commitment to the OCS.