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Entron eco Granulat in Behälter symbolisch für Mikroplastik reduzieren

Reduce Microplastics — Plastic pellets under control

The EU wants to reduce microplastics. It all began with an unwieldy title: “Draft regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention of the release of plastic pellets to reduce pollution caused by microplastics”. But what lies behind it concerns every company along the plastic granulate supply chain – producers, hauliers and processors. A brief look at the background shows why.

According to the German industry association Süddeutsches Kunststoffzentrum (SKZ), around two per cent of all plastic waste in the environment consists of plastic pellets. According to Statista, pellets are responsible for 0.3% of the world’s microplastics in the oceans alone. In contrast to the proportion caused by tyres (28%), textiles (35%) and cosmetics (2%), the amount of pellets seems small at first. However, while greater efforts are required to minimise the release of the aforementioned product groups, this is not so difficult with plastic pellets. This is because most pellets ends up in the environment due to improper handling and a lack of awareness on the part of companies.

The EU regulation, therefore, aims to reduce the amount of plastic pellets released into the environment by 54 to 74%. To this end, the EU wants to develop a mandatory standardised method for measuring the release of plastic pellets. The idea behind it is clear: The companies then standardise the amount of pellets they release into the environment. REACH already requires annual reporting on the release of plastic pellets, which has so far been based on estimated quantities. A new measurement standard will increase the accuracy of information on pellets releases.

In addition, the regulation provides for binding requirements to prevent and reduce the release of plastic pellets in a new EU legal framework. Micro and small companies have to fulfil less stringent requirements. The requirements are to be verified by means of third-party certification.

Putting theory into practice

What does the planned regulation mean in concrete terms for companies? Hartmut Schoon, CEO of ENNEATECH, makes it clear: “Granules can enter the environment during the production process, during transport through the pipelines in the plant, during container filling and, of course, during transport by road, rail or sea. This means that everyone involved along the value chain is losing money. It is, therefore, in everyone’s interest to identify the places where granulate loss can occur and to eliminate them!” ENNEATECH has already identified potential weak points in its own operations as part of the ISO 14001 certification process and introduced appropriate measures to reduce them. The loading personnel are specially trained and learn how to handle the granules so that as few grains as possible fall out during the loading processes. Within the plant, the employees collect the scattered granules and return it to the collection containers. Damaged containers are sorted out immediately so that no granules can escape from them. Training courses sensitise staff to handle the products with care. For Hartmut Schoon, the regulation is a correct and important step, even if it means more bureaucracy, new certification processes and, therefore, costs for the sector: “The negative effects of microplastics are well known, and the measures we need to take as a company are reasonable and feasible. It is important that the certification then also takes place along the entire value chain, so that the plastic granulates do not end up in the environment at any point.”

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