"Operation Clean Sweep®" (OCS) is an international programme launched by the plastics industry that sets out to avoid the leakage of plastic granules, flakes and powder, and to ensure that such materials do not get into the environment. The voluntary European OCS® certification system, which came into force in February 2023, now wants to create harmonised processes and procedures for the control and documentation of granule losses throughout the entire plastics supply chain. A joint webinar recently staged by Plastics Europe Deutschland, KunststoffSwiss and TÜV Nord, with the support of BKV, provided information about the basic principles of the OCS® certification.
Plastics Europe, the pan-European association of plastics producers, is the initiator and coordinator of the voluntary initiative "Operation Clean Sweep®" in Europe, having established the programme in cooperation with companies from the entire plastics value chain, beginning in 2015. It was developed to support companies in combating pellet leakages, which can occur at all stages of the value chain despite extensive controls. The OCS® programme is based on the premise that pellet losses can only be successfully curbed if the entire value chain supports it – from plastics producers through converters and retailers to the logistic partners and recycling companies. The OCS Europe certification system was developed in 2020 by plastics producers and converters under the leadership and supervision of a committee comprising representatives of politics, certification departments and the industry as a whole, and its recommendations were supplemented by public consultation. It lays down minimum requirements for participating in the programme to avoid pellet losses. This also includes the regular monitoring by externally validated auditors such as TÜV Nord. Certified companies can be listed in a public online register of OCS Europe, and the aim is to report annually on the development of the certification, including estimates of the pellet losses and performance indicators. With the roll-out of the OCS® certification, all the companies organised in the association have, according to Plastics Europe Brussels, undertaken to have their European sites certified according to OCS® by 2024.
At the webinar in June 2023, BKV project manager Stephanie Cieplik began by giving an overview of the quantities and sources of pellet losses in Germany, which BKV GmbH had examined in a special report for the year 2020 as part of its project "Plastics in the Environment". The special report provides a data model for Germany and shows clearly whereabouts pellets are released, and which of the discharges into the environment when handling the pellets are particularly relevant (see "Plastics in the Environment: A close look at pellet losses"). Dr. Alexander Kronimus, head of the Climate Protection and Circular Economy department at Plastics Europe Deutschland, then provided some information about the general principles of the OCS® initiative and certification. He reported, for example, that, during the first stage, 14 companies will carry out the OCS® certifications. In addition to this, a certification website (www.ocscertification.eu) has been set up specifically for this purpose, with which relevant documents with comprehensive information are made available. The core points of the webinar were the contributions from the TÜV-Nord Umweltschutz from Pierre-Oliver Quellmann with a theoretical introduction into the certification process and the answering of concrete questions by Thomas Nova from TÜV Nord Italy. An account was given in detail of, for example, the OCS® self-commitment with its individual commitments in fields such as "optimisation of the work environment", "compiling and publishing internal processes to achieve the objective of no granule leakages”, and "training the workforce and responsibility for the prevention of pellets being discharged from the production, processing and other handling processes." It also dealt with the necessary steps and requirements of the certification process, ranging from the signing of the self-commitment itself, through the implementation of OCS® into the corporate strategy, plans, targets and measures for preventing leakages, dealing with leakages right the way through to the development of information programmes for employees and affected companies, as well as partners in the supply chain.