02. November 2022
Topic:  Responsibility

🌊 How Operation Clean Sweep is Eliminating Plastic Pellet Pollution

Jérémy Fouriau discusses the challenges of preventing plastic pellet pollution, the importance of working with other stakeholders to address this issue, and the successes that Operation Clean Sweep has had so far. He also shares his insights on the future of the plastics industry and how it can play a role in reducing plastic pollution.

This is the second video in a two-part video series. The first video took a closer look at how the plastics industry is helping eliminate plastic leakage into the environment through Operation Clean Sweep. You can watch it here.

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Interview transcript

ML (Michael Londesborough): Jérémy Fouriau works at PlasticsEurope and is charged with the implementation of Operation Clean Sweep, which aims for zero plastic pellet loss into our environment. Today, I’ll be speaking with Jérémy from the viewpoint of a business working in the plastic industry and what is necessary in order to join Operation Clean Sweep.

So, let’s talk about it.

ML: Jérémy, we spoke earlier together about Operation Clean Sweep, which you’re implementing now in Europe, with the company, with PlasticsEurope. Now, we covered it from a broad perspective. So we talked about the goals of zero pellet loss, we talked about what companies and who are interested in this scheme, we talked about, briefly, how implementation might proceed and then we talked about when, you know, what are the important goals moving forward, what are the future dates. So, now I’d like to focus in on the implementation of OCS. So, let’s do a bit of a role play. Imagine that I’m running a company in the plastics industry and I’m interested to participate in OCS. I come to you, what happens next?

JF (Jérémy Fouriau): Well, I would suggest that you follow the OCS methodology. And what it is in practice? First, I would suggest that you commit to the program, so it means that publicly you sign the OCS pledge, which is composed of six elements. The first element – you need to have a look at your site and perform a risk analysis. What it means in practice? So, you look around your production facility, for instance, and you identify all the weak points you might have and where you see directly your pellets going into the environment. During the handling of your materials, of course, you would see that you are losing some pellets – all companies does – and this step is really key in order to go for the next step – which is to improve your worksite. There, basically, it’s to look how you can overcome those losses and spills onsite. And it’s really true, you know, simple steps. So for instance, it’s putting filters in place… other best practices could be to have brooms and stuff like that so your employees can vacuum the pellets to avoid that they go to the environment and stuff like that. So, first you really analyze where you might have losses, and then you implement best practices, where the set of ideas that we share with all members and so on, so that’s kind of the methodology. Next step would be then to have internal procedures and make sure that employees know how to react when they see pellets on the floor of the company. And last element, which is very important, is to train your employees.

ML: Okay, so I’m hearing from you – commitment, pledges, risk analysis, identification of where pellet loss is actually occurring in my business, and then the implementation of best practice, which I can, this is information, this is know-how, I can get from you to overcome these losses. And then linked to this, you highlighted the importance of training of my employees and a general awareness in my company of the importance to achieve zero loss.

Okay, so let’s start then with commitment and pledges – how do you secure commitment from me?

JF: So, I would send you the charter, so that you’re fully aware of what you commit and so as I was saying, the charter is composed of six elements – first, improve your setup, then create public awareness, then trainings, then audit your performance regularly, then commit to make sure that you comply with all regulations, and last element, which is also important, is to encourage all your partners that you’re working with, so transport companies, for instance, to pursue the same objective. So that’s really the key, the first element.

ML: And can you help me with, do you have material that you can help me with this? So, can you help me with that interaction I have with my customers, with the general public, to create that awareness that I’m part of the scheme, that I’m looking to improve my working practice to achieve zero loss into the environment… so that you can help me with?

JF: Yea, definitely. We have posters, communication materials, videos available in several languages on our website… so we have all the materials for companies to make sure that they will not feel alone in implementing this scheme. So, not only do we provide ideas for best practice, but also in terms of internal and external communication tools.

ML: And you mentioned that the OCS certificate… so, is this part of the commitment and pledge process? If I make that commitment and pledge, is that in a contractual way? Do I then receive from you a certificate?

JF: Well, within the OCS pledge, so the OCS charter that the company will sign in order to make the commitment to the program, there is one element on auditing. It’s both internal and external auditing. On the external auditing element, we have… we are working on the development of the OCS certification scheme, by the 1st of January 2022 and there, we are developing a set of minimum requirements to make sure that companies can demonstrate their commitment to the program. And it’s again based on the six pillars that I just explained.

ML: Okay, so then so… and the auditing you organize – the external auditing… so you’re able to come to my business and you take a look to see that I’ve actually kept to my commitment and if I achieve that then I will be awarded the certificate.

JF: Well, for full transparency and credibility, of course it won’t be me, because I’m part of the industry, so it’ll be external auditors from third party certification bodies that will come to your site to check in an independent manner, that you’re implementing the scheme properly, yes.

ML: Okay, now prior to that I was wonder… so when I’m looking… once I’ve committed into this scheme, and I’m looking to identify within my own business, where loss is occurring, and how I can then alter my work practice to overcome these losses, are you able to help me with this? Do you have a team of people who can come, have a look and advise me, you know, where I might be incurring losses?

JF: Well, what we did is, we have created a pool of experts in implementing this scheme. So, as I was saying, we have developed the scheme in 2015 in Europe. So since then, you can imagine that companies have been implementing the scheme for years and we have requested to have the pool of experts in implementing the scheme. So the way we organize ourselves when you do your risk analysis and you identify areas where, maybe you don’t know what kind of best practices you could implement… you could definitely contact me within PlasticsEurope and I will put you in contact with a pool of experts, where they can directly answer in a technical way, what kind of best practices you could implement in the identified area.

ML: Okay, but maybe you can help me out now. Just imagine, from your own experience dealing with pellet producers… let’s say I’m running a company that’s producing pellets. Where do you think is most likely that I’m incurring pellet loss and where, what are the most likely best practice that I can actually implement to help to overcome these losses?

JF: Well, the critical area, I would say, is always the loading and unloading of trucks. So, you know, we are producing the material and then we need, of course, to transport it elsewhere, for storage or to our customers, so that they can transform the pellets into objects. During this loading and unloading of trucks you can expect some pellet loss. So, in terms of best practices, what I would advise you, it can be from very simple measures to more technical measures. If you look at simple measures, just make sure that the floor is clean, of course, otherwise you can have pellets, you know, stuck in the tires of the truck and then, you know, as soon as they leave the site they can leak into the environment. How to achieve that? Have enough material to vacuum the pellets from the floor, for instance. So that’s easy. If you want to go more into technical aspects on how you can prevent those pellets coming out of the trucks and ending up on the floor, for instance, there are some blowing machines, which trucks have to go through in order to be cleaned up by this blowing installation, and therefore you can collect the pellets on the tops of the trucks and so on, so that they don’t leave into the environment.

So you see, it goes from very easy and quick fixes and also more technical, because the whole idea of the project is also continuous improvement.

ML: And also from your experience, do you feel as if the companies who are transporting the pellets I’m producing to my customers, are they becoming, are they aware of the OCS scheme and are they becoming more responsible in the, you mentioned, for example, catching pellets on their threads of their vehicles, perhaps on the soles of their shoes… is the awareness amongst transporation companies coming to the fore?

JF: Well, it’s one very important element of the program, of the OCS program, is really to encourage partners to work with us from the industry in order to avoid pellet loss. So it’s really a commitment from the whole plastic value chain. And as I was saying, within the scheme we have this encouragement of value chain partners. So it’s really, it’s not only a commitment, companies have to demonstrate that they are encouraging their partners, and it could be done via different means. It’s either you change your contract, for instance, to say “we will only work with companies that are committed to the OCS program”. But it could be also that you share some awareness messages when you have, you know, management meetings with the companies to explain, you know, we as a company really care about the environment, we care about prevention of pellet loss into the environment, and we would like you also to care. So really trying to share awareness about the issue, because…

ML: Okay, so to spread my commitment to it and make sure that it’s not only a priority for me, but a priority for the businesses who deal with my business.

Okay, so Jérémy, this is great. So I’m, you know, I understand now the commitment, the pledge, the analysis of where I’m incurring losses, the sharing of best practice, so I can limit and overcome these losses, the importance of interacting with the companies who I’m dealing with, the transportation, etc. One of the last things you mentioned was the training of employees. So,  tell me a little bit about that. What can I do? What’s best practice here? What should I do with the people who I employ, to make sure they understand and are aware of the importance of OCS?

JF: Well, one thing that really strikes me when I visit a site, is you know that as employees they have been working within a facility for so long and of course they don’t see the pellets anymore. It’s like us, in your kitchen, you know, you try to be clean as possible and so on, but you always needs to improve. And those trainings are there for that. So first, you raise awareness about the issue, you need to inform the employees that the pellets that they see on the floor will escape into the environment, and as consumers themselves, they don’t want to eat pellets, they don’t want to eat plastics. So really we are raising awarenes about the plastic litter issue. But also training them in order that they know how to react when they see pellets on the floor, how they need to clean them, how they can make sure they prevent their leakage into the environment and so on. So it’s really about two elements – the raising awareness and in practice, how they can make an impact themselves.

ML: Fantastic, well, Jérémy, thank you very much for your advice and running through with me how I as a leader in a company could implement the procedure for OCS and become a signatory of the certificate. So Jérémy, once again, thank you very much and all the best. 

JF: My pleasure, thank you.

ML: Bye bye

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