Tackling microplastic pollution at its source: the example of pellets
With up to 167 000 tonnes estimated to leak into the environment in Europe every year, plastic pellets are the second largest source of primary microplastic pollution (after tyre abrasion and before microfibers from textile).
Exclusively caused by economic operators in the plastic supply chain – such as plastic producers, transporters, converters or recyclers – plastic pellet pollution is particularly harmful for the marine biodiversity. Despite Operation Clean Sweep, the first voluntary agreement on preventing pellet loss being almost 30 years old, pellets still leak into the environment largely unnoticed.
Plastic pellets – also called nurdles or beads – are similar in shape and size to lentils (2-5 mm diameter). Produced by polymeric manufacturers and recycling facilities, they are then transported to facilities which will melt and mold them into the shape of the final plastic product.
Contrary to all the other microplastic pollution sources which are more diffuse, pellet loss is solely caused by actors in the plastic value chain. As such, it could therefore seem easy to tackle. However, despite concerns on plastic pellet pollution raised since the early 70’s , pellets still leak into the environment.
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