A voluntary initiative to help prevent tiny plastic pellets from being lost to the environment is working. INEOS says Operation Cleansweep has made a huge difference to the way it runs its sites in Antwerp, Rønningen Grangemouth and other sites around the world.
And the company says its success is largely due to intensive training, the sharing of best practices, a change in attitude across the entire supply chain and significant investment, which involves the redesign of the polymer loading chutes.
It has also provided them with a framework so they can judge their own performances.
Today, even one pellet lost at any of INEOS' sites is considered unacceptable.
“We are all very proud of what we are doing here,” said Inge Nilsen, Production/Process Engineer at INEOS Bamble, the polyolefin production unit at Rønningen Industrial area near Rafnes in Norway.
INEOS makes the tiny, translucent pellets before they enter a complex supply chain for other manufacturers to melt, mould and convert them into all kinds of plastic products.
In the past, those pellets might have been lost anywhere within the complex supply chain. But times have changed.
In Norway, any spillages on INEOS' site used to be registered, to be fixed later. “Any spillage now is dealt with immediately,” said Inge.
At Rønningen, double guards have also been fitted to every gutter to stop the translucent pellets from being washed into the underground drains.
And a dedicated operator has been hired to drive a street sweeper around the areas considered to be most at risk.
Tobias Hannemann, CEO O&P UK, said changes had been made at Grangemouth to reduce the loss of pellets – even before the site had signed up to Operation Cleansweep. “We’ve had a number of measures in place including rumble strips and air blowers to remove stray pellets from trucks and pellet water separators on the manufacturing plant,” he said. With Operation Cleansweep though, came even more.
Over 200 fine mesh sieves have been installed inside the drains and additional cleaning stations have been created so that staff are never more than 10 metres away from the equipment.
They are also working with specialists to redesign the polymer loading chutes to reduce the risk of pellets being lost when the tankers are being filled.
In addition, the number of daily checks of the wastewater from the polymer plants has been increased and there are ‘OCS Champions’ on each shift.
“As a local resident and employee, I am extremely aware of how important it is to ensure we minimise our impact on the local environment,” said OCS Champion Gemma Taylor. But Grangemouth doesn’t just want to keep its own site in order.
“That’s the least we can do,” said Peter Malley, Supply Chain Project Manager at Grangemouth.
The Scottish site is also working with all those involved in the supply chain to encourage them to sign up to Operation Cleansweep.
“The supply chain system is extremely complex and pellets are handled by many different companies,” said Stuart Keillor, Supply Chain Manager.
“We have increased awareness of the principles of OCS right across the supply chain. Whereas previously some of our hauliers may have taken a voluntary approach to OCS, we have now mandated that they incorporate the principles into their operations.”
Trucks are now monitored and drivers have become accountable for the cleanliness of their vehicles before leaving the site.
“INEOS is a leader of change for Operation Cleansweep,” said Chris Seagriff, Regional Operations Manager for Haulier XPO Logistics. “They have clearly adopted the principles alongside those that were already in place to further enhance their operations and reduce significantly the risk of any pellets finding their way out of the supply chain.”
Grangemouth has also been working with environmental groups such as Fidra.
“Plastic pellets on beaches are a totally preventable source of pollution,” said Madeleine Berg, Project Manager at Fidra. “As industry leaders, INEOS not only have the opportunity, but also a duty to lead the way practically to solve this pollution problem.”
Across the Channel, staff at INEOS' Antwerp site are determined to help with that too as part of their commitment to Operation Cleansweep.
INEOS Styrolution has invested heavily in training and improving equipment on the site to ensure pellets don’t ultimately end up in the ocean, where they can be mistaken for food by fish.
It is also following Grangemouth’s lead and involve the entire supply chain.
“If we can all get involved, we can make a real difference,” said site director Toon Van Melckebeke.
INEOS Bamble, Rønningen, Norway
- All operators and employees handling pellets have been trained.
- Spillages are dealt with immediately, not simply logged.
- Double guards fitted to gutters to stop pellets disappearing into the underground drains.
- Dedicated operator employed to drive a street sweeper to avoid pellets ending up in the environment.
INEOS Styrolution, Antwerp, Belgium
- Basket filters and collection basins fitted to ensure no pellets leave the site.
- Staff now more aware of the need to keep the site clean.
- Site is part of the ‘Zero Pellet Taskforce’ organised by the Port of Antwerp and staff regularly join clean-up events.
INEOS, Grangemouth, Scotland
- More than 200 fine, mesh sieves installed in the drains.
- Extra cleaning stations installed.
- Specific specialised training for all staff.
- Loading chutes are also being redesigned.