Microplastics have had a recent media upsurge with the Environment Minister Greg Hunt poised to follow in the USA’s footsteps and ban microbeads in beauty products. Also in the microplastics category are plastic resin pellets which are the raw material from which all moulded plastic items are made; they are slightly larger than microplastics (2-6mm), but just as dangerous to wildlife. They are mistaken for food and ingested and cannot pass through digestive tracts, leading to malnutrition and starvation.
When plastic pellets are spilt they are easily washed into stormwater drains which transport them to our natural waterways and oceans. In order to combat this issue an innovative program called Operation Clean Sweep® is being trialled in the Port Phillip Bay Catchment.
The program is completely free and offers simple suggestions for ways that manufacturing facilities can be modified to reduce pellet spills, for example by using catch trays beneath unloading valves. All of this information is contained in a concise manua which has been reviewed by the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) to ensure that it meets the needs of the Australian plastics industry.
Operation Clean Sweep® also helps companies to meet other requirements. Potential regulatory fines for spillages can be avoided which can cost more than $700,000. The efficiency of companies is increased as more product is retained rather than being lost as waste. Pellet spills are an occupational health and safety hazard as employees can slip on them, the program helps facilities to demonstrate that they are maintaining a safe workplace. Environmental stewardship reputations are enhanced and companies are seen as leaders of the Australian industry.
If you are in the industry, take action and complete the company pledge today stating that you will strive towards zero pellet loss!.
This project was funded through the Victorian Government’s Litter Hotspots Program. Partners include the Port Phillip EcoCentre, City of Kingston, City of Wyndham, Wyndham LitterWatch, Werribee River Association, Western Metropolitan Catchments Network and the Western Melbourne Environment Centre.