A record-setting 81 per cent of DuPont investors has voted in support of corporate accountability when it comes to plastic pellet pollution, in what is the highest vote to date on the issue. Now the wait begins to see if the petrochemical giant will respond to their calls.
Through the As You Sow shareholder resolution, the company will produce an annual report on the amount of pre-production plastic it releases into the environment every year.
"This vote confirms a tidal wave of support by investors to confront a deadly contributor to the global plastic pollution crisis, as well as a historically high-vote result for a common sense request that the company provide public reporting on spills of pre-production plastic pellets," says Conrad MacKerron, senior vice-president, As You Sow
Plastic pellets are the building blocks for nearly all plastic products and, according to As You Sow, are estimated to be the second largest direct source of microplastic pollution to the ocean by weight.
Once produced by petrochemical companies like DuPont, pellets are transported by rail, ship or road to a second or third destination before being melted into a final product.
It is estimated that throughout the pellet supply chain, an estimated 10 trillion plastic pellets are spilled and unrecovered every year, according to recent figures from ECOS.
DuPont is the latest in a series of companies As You Sow has engaged on reducing plastic pellet pollution. Other companies include Chevron Phillips Chemical, Eccon Mobil Chemical, Eastman Chemical, Westlake Chemical, Occidental Petroleum, and Dow Chemical.
However, so far, only Chevron Phillips, Exxon and Dow have begun to provide data.
According to the Breaking the Plastic Wave report, an estimated 11 million metric tonnes of plastic, including pellets, leak into oceans annually, and this figure is expected to grow to 24 million metric tonnes by 2040.
Ocean plastic pollution causes fatalities in more than 800 marine species from ingestion, entanglement, suffocation or drowning, according to the latest UN figures.
More than 200 pellet, flake and powder spills have been reported to the National Response Centre since reporting began.
Petrochemical and plastic companies have recently paid substantial fines for pellet releases, with the largest fine being paid by US-based petrochemical manufacturer Formosa Plastics, reaching $50 million.
DuPont is a member of Operation Clean Sweep, an industry program that has been revealed to be designed largely to fend off regulation, not to ensure compliance nor success.
Operation Clean Sweep provides best practices to reduce pellet low, but does not facilitate public reporting on spill incidents, as the As You Sow resolution requests do.
“We encourage DuPont to respond swiftly to its investors and proactively curb the plastic pollution it is responsible for by joining its peers in publicly reporting its pellet handling information and spill data,” says Kelly McBee, waste program coordinator at As You Sow.
"Pellet spills have been ongoing for decades but the industry has failed to proactively respond. Public reporting of spills is the first step in corporate accountability for plastic pellet pollution."