If you could take a simple step to help strengthen your company’s:

  • sustainability initiatives;
  • contribution to preserving water quality and wildlife;
  • compliance with federal and state regulations and avoidance of fines;
  • safety/housekeeping program;
  • employees’ well-being;
  • operational efficiency;
  • financial bottom line; and
  • reputation in the community…

…would you take it?

That simple step is Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), a product stewardship program of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division and Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).

The campaign’s goal is: to help every plastic resin handling operation implement good housekeeping and plastic resin containment practices to work towards achieving zero plastic resin loss to the environment. OCS is being conducted in thousands of plants around the world, all adding to the effort to protect the environment.

Plastic Resin Loss — Its Impact and Its Management

Plastic resin loss has many negative impacts on individual companies, on the plastics industry as a whole, and on the environment.

Resin spills can cause slips and falls, which are a major cause of safety accidents in the plastics industry. Accidents lead to lost work time, higher worker compensation costs, and lower employee morale. Furthermore, violations of storm water regulations in states like California can result in civil penalties of up to $3,000 per incident (e.g., Cal. Code. Regs. title 23 § 13385). Any person discharging unauthorized waste in violation of CWC § 13264, could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000 a day.

Spilled resin, in any form, can also impact the environment by eventually ending up in our waterways and the ocean. Whether they’re handled in an Iowa plant or a seaside facility, this material can be transported to storm drains that lead to rivers and then to the ocean. In recent years and with increasing frequency, researchers have reported that seabirds, turtles and fish are ingesting a wide variety of plastic items that are killing them or affecting their health. Most of these plastics are used consumer products (e.g. bottles, caps, containers, etc.) that have been carelessly discarded. Some of this litter is resin pellets, flakes and powder that entered the waste stream and the oceans. When this resin is eaten by wildlife it cannot be passed through their digestive tracts, leading to malnutrition and starvation.

When the industry handles plastic resin as responsibly as possible:

  • Potential for industry accidents decreases significantly.
  • Companies enhance their reputations as good stewards of the environment — an increasingly important factor for attracting the investment community and high-quality employees.
  • More material remains as a valuable product rather than becoming waste, improving efficiency.
  • Plastic resin is kept out of the natural environment, including waterways and oceans.

OCS’ ultimate goal is to help keep plastic resin out of the environment. These efforts can help improve relations with stakeholder groups and community organizations that expect the industry to minimize its environmental footprint.

The industry needs all hands on deck to get positive results. Even non-resin handlers can help by becoming a Supporter Member and spreading the word about best practices and encouraging those who do handle resin to join the OCS Program.

How You Can Help

While consumers are responsible for the proper disposal of the products they use, the plastics industry must focus on proper containment of the products we use – plastic resin, the basic raw material of our industry. We must prevent the resin from getting into waterways that eventually lead to the sea.

Each segment of the industry, including resin producers, transporters, bulk terminal operators, recyclers and plastics processors, has a role to play in eliminating resin loss. It’s the little things that count. A few pellets, flakes, and powder here. A handful there. They all add up when you consider the thousands of facilities in the industry and the many times resin is handled.

All employees in every aspect of the industry must be educated on how to properly handle and dispose of plastic resin with the goal of zero resin loss to the environment. Commitment by everyone, from top management to the shop floor employee, is essential to eliminating resin loss. Plastic resin containment is good for the environment. It’s good for business. And, it’s the law. With your help and cooperation, we can make great strides to help our industry protect the environment. ACC and PLASTICS look forward to working with you on OCS to accomplish this important goal.

Please contact us with any input or questions: wordpress@opcleansweep.org

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Litter is not an issue of type of debris, but one of personal responsibility. We ALL share in the responsibility to prevent litter – stopping debris before it reaches our stormwater drains where it can drift to our oceans. Protect our oceans and we protect ourselves.