Plastic pollution is most commonly thought of as used consumer products that have been disposed of inappropriately. However, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database has been revealing a more insidious problem with increasing reports of plastic resin pellets (also known as nurdles) entering the waste stream and our oceans.
As a result, Tangaroa Blue and Chemistry Australia have partnered to implement Operation Clean Sweep®, encouraging the Australian plastics industry and all individual players to contain, reclaim or dispose of nurdles appropriately. With the ambitious goal of achieving zero pellet loss, the industry-wide program offers practical measures to take at a corporate and individual level in order to safely contain nurdles through manufacturing processes and transportation.
“Plastic pollution is a growing concern with plastics representing over 75% marine debris in our oceans and Operation Clean Sweep® provides easy ways to prevent that from occurring” said Heidi Taylor, Managing Director at Tangaroa Blue Foundation.
Major stakeholders from the plastics industry recognised that while consumers are responsible for the proper disposal of used products, they themselves have a duty of appropriately containing the raw materials. Co-Ex Films Pty Ltd was one of the first businesses to sign up to Operation Clean Sweep® and has been championing the initiative, educating other industry players around the importance of the program, sharing their learning and how easy it has been for them to implement.
“We wanted to play our part in the industry minimising the loss of plastic pellets into the environment and by signing up to Operation Clean Sweep®, we fulfilled our objective” said an official Co-Ex Films Pty Ltd spokesperson.
As a result of continuous efforts and industry education, Operation Clean Sweep® now includes 17 major players representing all levels of the supply chain, from manufacturing to logistics and recycling operators. The chemistry industry and supply chain also showed their support by participating in The Great Port Phillip Bay Nurdle Hunt which resulted in over 1,500 nurdles removed from a 100 metre stretch of the Yarra River earlier this year. In parallel, plastic pellet loss is being closely monitored through the use of stormwater drain traps, a heavy-duty basket that only allows water to pass through stormwater drains but collecting all other matter. Thanks to funding from the Victorian Government’s Port Phillip Bay Fund, Operation Clean Sweep® has continued to expand over the last two years preventing plastic resin pellets, flake and powder from reaching our oceans.