“Zero Pellet Loss” Initiative Reduces Marine Litter

People all over the world are causing distress to the marine environment by creating so-called “marine litter”. The majority of this waste is composed of used goods, only a small proportion consists of plastic granulates.

“Zero Pellet Loss” refers to various projects and activities in the plastics industry worldwide, which aim to minimize the loss of granulates along the value chain and thus counteract the pollution of the oceans and coasts with plastic waste.

PlasticsEurope and the German organization IK (Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V.) jointly launched a program of such activities under the name “Zero Pellet Loss” in August 2013.

RKW has joined in this initiative and is cooperating with other companies and with the associations to sharpen awareness of the issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who or what is behind the name “Zero Pellet Loss”?

    “Zero Pellet Loss” refers to various projects and activities in the plastics industry worldwide, which aim to minimize the loss of granulates along the value chain and thus counteract the pollution of the oceans and coasts with plastic waste. PlasticsEurope and the German organization Plastics Packaging (Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V., IK) jointly launched a program of such activities under the name “Zero Pellet Loss” in August 2013.

    RKW has joined in this initiative and is cooperating with other companies and with the associations. The company’s goal is to sharpen awareness of the issue, both at its own plants as well with partners and customers across the industry, and to ensure that pellets, powders and flakes do not end up in the garbage or sewage.

  • What is the background to this initiative?

    People all over the world are causing distress to the marine environment by creating so-called “marine litter”. Part of the waste consists of plastic residues. As the scientific journal “Science” reported in 2015, between four and twelve million tons of plastic waste finds its way into the oceans each year. Animals such as Northern fulmars starve in great numbers because they mistake the plastic waste for food.

    The majority of this waste is composed of used goods that end up in the oceans due to careless consumer behavior or infrastructural shortcomings. Only a small proportion consists of plastic granulates. Although the loss of plastics at production plants and sites is minimal, granules can be passed into the environment mainly through production processes, distribution, storage, transport and further processing. In all areas of the value chain, enterprises have a responsibility to contribute to an environmentally sustainable economy via efficient and resource-saving production processes.

  • What are pellets?

    A pellet is a granulate; that is, a small, pre-formed body that is often used as feed material for injection molding and extrusion.

  • How are “Zero Pellet Loss” and “Operation Clean Sweep” related?

    The “Zero Pellet Loss” project is part of the global initiative Operation Clean Sweep. This was originated by the US Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and the “Declaration for Solutions on Marine Litter”, adopted by PlasticsEurope and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in 2011. The Zero Pellet Loss initiative pursues the same objectives as Operation Clean Sweep, only occasionally using different terminology.

  • What goals is RKW pursuing in this context?

    As a leading manufacturer of film solutions, the RKW Group has a responsibility for creating a sustainable future and thus follows a comprehensive sustainability strategy. Actions taken by the Group include, for example, the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative and the use of alternative materials such as FPO® (filled polyolefins) and various bioplastics, as well as reducing film thickness (down-gauging). Another activity is the utilization of recycled material. Each RKW site has its own recycling facilities where almost all of the inevitable waste from production is processed into high-quality re-granulate.

    The goal of the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative is to reduce the loss of granulates at all RKW plants to zero by recycling and subsequently reusing all plastic pellets. In this way, RKW is contributing to a cleaner environment.

    Because plastic pellets on the floor of production halls also pose a risk of slipping, “Zero Pellet Loss” also improves work safety. In addition, lost plastic pellets always mean a loss of value. If they are recycled instead of finding their way into the garbage, material yield increases. Sustainability and commercial success thus go hand in hand.

  • How is RKW implementing the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative?

    RKW has initiated a cultural change at its 20 plants, which has increased employee awareness of the issue. The measures include regular training, clearly legible signage around the production sites, and tidily sorted, easily accessible cleaning tools. At the outset of the project in 2014, RKW conducted a survey across all its plants to establish the points at which granule losses occur and in what quantities. Losses were monitored and compared using a filtering process.

  • Did RKW need to take any specific action to join this project?

    To be able to join the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative, RKW needed to carry out internal audits at all participating plants (20) worldwide to identify the points at which granulates might enter the environment – for example, when filling silos or cleaning pipes. RKW then created a plan with technical and organizational measures that would enable to easily eliminate these leaks. In 2015, RKW submitted a self-declaration to the IK (Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V.) and certified its entire group. RKW regularly monitors the implementation and effectiveness of these measures and constantly optimizes them.

  • What has changed for RKW as a result of the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative?

    Since the start of the initiative, RKW has regularly checked the company’s plants for potential leaks where pellets could be lost and has repaired any affected machines, silos, filling systems or pipes. RKW ensures regular cleaning with the aim of detecting such leaks more quickly. The company has also installed cleaning equipment and additional disposal points so that employees can immediately dispose of any pellets that fall on the floor.

    As far as possible, RKW uses the pellets again straightaway. If this is not possible, RKW does not dispose of them in the regular trash but ensures that they are recycled. The company also measures pellet loss to further reduce losses. Through the installation of sieves on rain water drains, RKW prevents pellets from entering the environment.

    Employee awareness also plays a major role. Through information events, the company ensures that all employees are aware of the initiative and of the measures that RKW has implemented. From the start of the initiative, RKW has also run activities such as “team cleaning” events, during which individual teams clean the premises and production equipment of loose pellets.

  • Will RKW be monitored by PlasticsEurope?

    RKW has submitted a self-assessment to the IK (Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V.) and has informed them of the measures taken. Participating companies are required to conduct regular audits.

  • What effects has the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative achieved?

    The technical and organizational measures RKW installed with the “Zero Pellet Loss” initiative substantially help to prevent pellet losses. This means less leaks and spills. Dirty pellets are not disposed in regular trash but immediately collected for recycling, thus preventing possible downstream pollutions.

    RKW’s factories are safer and cleaner, and losses of pellets in the environment are drastically minimized. At several locations, RKW has halved the loss of pellets in 2015 compared to 2014.