Plastic offers a lot of advantages. Plastic packaging, for example, keeps food fresh for longer and reduces spoilage on the farm-to-table route. Thanks to the introduction of light but durable plastic materials, cars consume less fuel, emit less CO2 and are safer and more comfortable. There are so many examples. But if plastic ends up in our natural environment, that is a problem. Dow is therefore a partner for many years in Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), an international program designed to prevent plastic granules (pellets or nurdles) from ending up in our environment. Ayşe Oben Şen Hoste, Site Logistics Operational Excellence Leader, is closely involved with OCS from Dow and tells more about it.

“We have been actively involved in the Operation Clean Sweep program for many years to further reduce the loss of plastic pellets in various ways,” says Oben. “We do this together with the plastic-producing and logistics industrial park partners. Plastic as litter has no place in our natural environment. That is why our priority is that no grains from the industrial park end up in the environment. To make this possible, we have started various projects and implemented improvements in recent years. And at the same time we tackle the problem at the source. That means finding solutions where the possible waste of grains can take place. We have made adjustments to our systems, we are updating them with newer technology to operate waste-free. We also train our employees about OCS and the importance of a process in which no grains are lost during the logistics operation and we have strict housekeeping programs. In order to have and keep full attention on this subject, we as Dow have an internal requirement that we must report even a relatively small loss of grains (>0.5kg) internally. In this way we increase awareness of responsible and proper handling of our products and we keep our housekeeping under control.

In recent years, we have implemented the following:

  • We have made a complete analysis to identify where loss of grains can occur and have drawn up plans for this. We are actively implementing projects, but also testing and developing prototypes of new closed systems to prevent pellet loss, not only in Terneuzen but also at our other sites. For example, in Terneuzen and at a Dow site in Germany, a special closed truck loading system has been made to prevent pellets from being spilled during the loading of a truck. We are currently testing this further and collecting data. Ultimately, we want to install this for all our loading pipes to be able to load without further waste.
  • We modify or replace our equipment with more modern versions to prevent pellet loss. One of our loading devices that we use to load pellets to the containers has been modified so that there is no or minimal wastage of pellets during loading. We're going to have the other two we have adjusted this year as well.
  • In practice, it can happen that a small part of the grains do not end up in the wagon, but on the wagon during loading. If that truck then starts driving, braking or the wind blows, the loose grains can then fall onto the street. To prevent grains from leaving the site via trucks, we installed a blow-off station in 2020 together with our logistics partner. Trucks must therefore first go through the blow-off station before they leave the industrial park. We are also looking into installing closed systems.
  • We have placed filter baskets in the discharge points to prevent granules from floating towards our waste water treatment plant (Biox).
  • We have installed a filter in the rainwater channel of the Industrial Park, so that plastic does not leave the site through the rainwater.
  • We have implemented additional methods to keep our work environment clean of plastic granules. Think of special vacuum cleaners, sweepers for roads and verges.

We are constantly working on improvements to our systems. That is a continuous effort. Our spill prevention procedures, i.e. our OCS approach, are laid down in our ISO 14001 certified environmental management system. This year, as Dow Terneuzen, we also want to obtain European certification for Operation Clean Sweep through an audit by an independent body.”

Every pellet is one too many
Oben explains what else is happening. “We are not only within Dow Terneuzen, but Dow branches worldwide are actively involved in 'Operation Clean Sweep'. We recently rolled out the 'Every Pellet Counts' campaign within Dow. The Every Pellet Counts campaign aims to give us more insight into the challenges of plastic loss, implications and impact and what we can do to improve further. It is also mainly about awareness and the mindset that we must prevent plastic loss during the production, loading, transport and processing of our product. Both at Dow and at our supply chain partners and customers. We work together with everyone to prevent the loss of pellets.”

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Listen to the Podcast with Anton van Beek

Listen to the Podcast via the link below, in which Maikel Harte talks to Anton van Beek about the sustainable ambition of Dow Terneuzen.