British Plastics Federation sponsors plastic pellet pollution reduction report
04 Jun 2020 --- The British Standards Institution (BSI), the national standards body of the UK, is spearheading a new project aimed at creating the first specification that will help prevent plastic pellet pollution. The report is sponsored by the British Plastics Federation (BPF), among other investors, and will be published in July 2021. The fast-tracked standardization document will provide an important tool for companies to demonstrate good practice in pellet loss prevention measures across the supply chain. Pressingly, plastic pellets pose significant threat to biodiversity across sea life.
“Plastic pellets are estimated to be the second largest source of direct microplastic pollution entering the ocean, where they can have severe impacts on a wide range of species, including fish (which provide critical protein to billions of people) and seabirds, such as puffins,” says Hazel Akester, Marine Plastics Programme Officer at Fauna & Flora International (FFI), which represents sponsors of the initiative.
The standardization document will be developed by a steering group consisting of experts from across the international supply chain including plastics manufacturers, transportation, retailing and recycling organizations. The specification is to be called Publicly Available Specification 510 (PAS 510) Plastic pellets, flakes and powders – Handling and management throughout the supply chain to prevent their leakage to the environment – Specification.
“Plastic pollution is a complex global issue that requires urgent collaboration and action between governments and the corporate sector to help stop pellets making their way into the ocean each year; PAS 510 is a landmark step in the right direction. We are working with a range of experts to agree best practice to prevent the leakage of plastic pellets into the environment,” details David Fatscher, Head of Environment, Social and Governance Standards at BSI.
The specification is being designed for all supply chain organizations involved in using, processing, handling, storing or transport of plastic pellets, flakes and powders. It will set out measures to prevent the leakage of plastic pellets, flakes and powders, collectively referred to as pellets, into the environment and demonstrate procedures for continual improvement.
This will build on the existing plastic industry’s program Operation Clean Sweep which is coordinated by the BPF in the UK and offers comprehensive guidance and tools to prevent plastic pellet loss across the supply chain.
“Compliance with a globally-recognized standardization document allows companies to demonstrate best practice, and gives investors a means for engagement on this issue, and the ability to hold companies to account. We believe this is the first time investors have sponsored a specification to improve corporate behaviour, and see this as a tangible stewardship action,” asserts Victoria Sant, Senior Adviser at the Investor Forum.
“The development of the PAS provides a unique opportunity for companies to verify and demonstrate compliance with pellet loss prevention measures. As the loss of valuable raw material along the supply chain has serious environmental and economic consequences, the plastics industry is taking a proactive approach to successfully mitigate this risk,” concludes Adela Putinelu Sustainability Executive at BPF.
The ubiquity of ocean plastics may present further opportunities in upcycling. Last month, ZincIn launched specialized food trays made from recycled fishing equipment like ropes and cages, which are big contributors to the global plastic pollution crisis. The natural trace element found in the trays is vital to the human immune system and protects against bacteria and viruses without needing to wipe the trays clean.
Also in developments last month, an international research team at the National Oceanography Centre discovered the highest levels of microplastic ever recorded on the seafloor. Up to 1.9 million pieces were identified in a thin layer covering one square meter of the Mediterranean Sea.
Microplastics are just 100 nanometers in diameter – the width of a human hair. Last April, Finland-based research facility VTT developed a method that uses nanocellulose structures for the early identification of microplastic particles before they enter waterways.
Edited by Benjamin Ferrer
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