Ms. Gfatter, Ms. Junghanns, Mr. Knöß, you will, of course, be familiar with the progress report on the OCS program from PlasticsEurope. From your sector of industry’s point of view, how would you describe the present status in the commitment to combat pellet loss?
GFATTER: Back in 2015, Austria’s plastics processors committed themselves in the "Zero Pellet Loss" pact with the Environment Ministry to reduce plastic pellets. The companies in the pact cover around 90 percent of the total quantity of plastic pellets handled in Austria. Within the space of only one year, the participating companies implemented all the possible measures in their sphere of action. Through the industry's commitment, it has been possible to reduce pellet losses to less than 1 kg per day.
JUNGHANNS: Plastics producers in Europe began back in 2013 with the implementation of the program, at that time still under the name "Zero Pellet Loss". Consequently, this part of the plastics value chain has already had considerable experience with the implementation. Other partners in the chain have not been familiar with the program for so long, which means that some catching-up needs to be done. Overall, we are on the right track even if it would be good if things moved a little faster. But for proper implementation along the value chain, it is important to take into account the complexity and also to engage the numerous partners.
KNÖSS: The IK initiative "Zero Pellet Loss" is part of the OCS program and was initiated five years ago. In the meantime, 60 percent of our members are taking part in the initiative Unfortunately, we are also feeling the influence of the corona crisis, because other matters have to be given priority. We are, however, confident that we will be able to further increase this figure next year.
How is the cooperation within the value-added chain working out? The OCS program, for example, is campaigning for overarching cooperation in the implementation of a European certification system on zero pellet loss.
GFATTER: With our national pact, we are part of the European initiative "Operation Clean Sweep – Objective: zero pellet loss!" This brings together all national programs on one platform and regularly publishes progress reports. Especially for companies with several European sites, a collective European presentation is to be welcomed. From 2022, companies can participate directly in the European initiative.
JUNGHANNS: Cooperation in the value chain is now working well. The coordination process is, however, difficult because of the many different partners. On the one hand, we have numerous small and medium-sized companies and, on the other, we have large global corporations. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that our European umbrella association PlasticsEurope is doing a very good job here, and I am convinced that, at the end of it all, we will have a good, acknowledged certification system.
KNÖSS: That is correct and the cooperation is functioning excellently. I myself belong to a technical committee in which representatives of plastics producers (PlasticsEurope) and plastics converters (EuPC) are discussing a pan-European certification system. In the near future, representatives of the logistics and recycling sectors will also join us. All the findings and experience relating to pellet losses across the different fields will then be collected and evaluated so as to be in a position to jointly categorize the effectiveness of the different measures.
The European Commission is also looking at measures to prevent pellet loss, which makes it necessary to have a well-functioning, pan-European collaboration within the industry. What is the situation in that respect? What do you think still needs to be done, if anything?
GFATTER: The REACH restriction for microplastic currently being drawn up includes a notification obligation for granule manufacturers and processors. The European plastics associations are currently working on meeting this obligation through a certification scheme for OCS signatories that is audited by external third parties.
JUNGHANNS: The key partners and multipliers for the success of the collaboration are the plastics associations. Here, there is a common willingness to meet the target of zero pellet loss.
KNÖSS: With the notification obligation mentioned by Dr. Gfatter, plastics processing firms, for example, must report annually the estimated or measured quantity of granules that have entered the environment. However, at present there are no instructions on how these quantities should be estimated or even measured. Because of the many different mass flows and their tolerances, a holistic approach for tracing such small quantities (<1 kg) is not possible in the plastics processing companies. But how are you are supposed to measure something or document it again when it has been unintentionally emitted and is no longer to be found in its original place? Here, we may have to consider an alternative concept.