05 July 2020

ECOS will help draft a British standard for spilled plastic pellets – a major source of marine pollution

ECOS has joined the steering group developing a new standard on responsible plastic pellets waste management, set up by the British Standardisation Institute (BSI). It aims to tackle spills of these materials – they are the second largest source of primary microplastic pollution after tyre wear and tear.

The standard, due to be published by BSI in July 2021, is referred to as PAS 510, and its full title reads: Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 510 “Plastic pellets, flakes and powders – Handling and management throughout the supply chain to prevent their leakage to the environment – Specification”.

The aim of PAS 510 is to provide an important tool for companies to demonstrate good practice in pellet loss prevention measures across the supply chain and showcase procedures for continual improvement.

We are glad to have been invited by BSI to join the steering group for creating this standard, as this is a great opportunity to bring together experts from industry, government and the non-profit sector to tackle the spilled plastic pellets issue.

This initiative could be a basis for a globally applicable standard on pellet loss prevention measures targeting all actors handling pellets and ensuring adequate disclosure requirements throughout the value chain. Tackling pellet loss through a supply chain focused global standard could help capture 90% of all pellets lost into the environment!

ECOS’ objective is to include stringent requirements in the standard, reflecting the current best practices. If ambitious and robust enough, the standard could provide the basis for a European legislation including mandatory requirements on pellet handling.

The problem of plastic pellets is a very serious one. In the EU alone, 167 000 tonnes of plastic pellets enter the environment every year, making it the second largest source of primary microplastic pollution after tyre wear and tear. Spilled pellets pose major risks to the environment and are caused solely by actors in the plastic value chain, with voluntary measures taken at best to mitigate these, and thus proving there is still a long way to go. 

Spilled pellets pose major risks to the environment, and marine life in particular, as they are often mistaken for food by marine animals. In addition, pellets absorb Persistent Organic Pollutants – toxic chemicals – in particularly high quantities. As a consequence, they enter the food chain, causing biodiversity loss and impacting human health.

ECOS has been working on pellets for the past few years together with NGOs such as Fauna & Flora International, Environmental Investigation Agency and the wider Rethink Plastic alliance.

ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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