Following engagement with As You Sow, Westlake Chemical, one of the largest producers of low-density polyethylene, has agreed to start reporting on spills of pre-production plastic pellets, or nurdles, manufactured in its production plants. Plastic pellets are emerging as a significant source of ocean plastic pollution.
When the company did not respond last fall to a request to engage, As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal with Westlake and has been in dialogue with the company for several months. The company has now agreed to report:
• Its plastic pellet production capacity data;
• Plastic pellet and powder loss data to be reported to the Operation Clean Sweep Blue program operated by the chemical industry;
• The amount of material recovered within its resin-handling facilities that is recycled;
• Substantive information on best management practices; and
• Information on how it engages its supply chain to share best practices and help reduce/eliminate pellet losses elsewhere.
“We are pleased to see Westfield Chemical follow other industry leaders and agree to public reporting on plastic pellet spills and management,” Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow, said. “Baseline data expected to be generated from such reporting helps policy makers and other stakeholders to assess the scope of this growing problem.”
The Westfield action follows similar agreements reached last year between As You Sow and ExxonMobil Chemical, and Chevron and Phillips 66, co-owners Chevron Phillips Chemical. Dow Chemical also agreed to report on pellet spills; As You Sow is in dialogue with the company on reporting details.
Due to spills and poor handling procedures, billions of pellets are swept into waterways during production or transport annually, and increasingly found on beaches and shorelines, adding to harmful levels of plastic pollution in the environment. Plastic pellets are estimated to be the second largest direct source of microplastic pollution to the ocean by weight. When in the environment, plastics break down into small pieces that animals mistake for food such as fish eggs, causing fatalities from intestinal blockage.
In recognition of the agreement, As You Sow agreed to withdraw its shareholder proposal at Westlake. A similar proposal is pending at Occidental Petroleum, whose Occidental Chemical subsidiary, is another major petrochemical manufacturer.