DowDupont: Disclosure of Plastic Pellet Spills and Cleanup Actions

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WHEREAS:  Plastic pollution is a global environmental crisis. DowDupont is one of the world’s largest plastics and resins manufacturers and plastic pellets are increasingly found on beaches and in waterways due to spills at facilities or during transport.  

Eight million tons of plastics leaks into oceans annually. Plastics degrade in water to small particles that animals mistake for food; plastic pollution impacts 260 species, causing fatalities from ingestion, entanglement, suffocation, and drowning.  Plastic does an estimated $13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems annually. If no action is taken, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Plastics also absorb toxics such as dioxins from water and transfer them to the marine food web and potentially to human diets, increasing the risk of adverse effects to wildlife and humans.  

Nearly 200 nations pledged to eliminate plastic pollution in the world’s oceans at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi last December.  UN Undersecretary-General Erik Solheim called the issue “an ocean Armageddon.” The U.S. Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 banned one form of microplastic pollution—microbeads used in cosmetic products.  

Most plastic products originate from plastic pellets, also known as pre-production pellets, or nurdles, manufactured in polymer production plants. Due to spills and poor handling procedures, billions of plastic pellets are swept into waterways during production or transport annually, adding to harmful levels of plastic pollution in the environment.  

Plastic pellets are estimated to be the second largest direct source of microplastic pollution to the ocean by weight; up to 53 billion pellets may be spilled annually in the United Kingdom alone.  A recent study concluded that up to 36 million plastic pellets may be spilled from one major industry production complex in Sweden.  

DowDupont and its subsidiaries reported 120 material spills in 2016 and 2017, but company information lacks specificity as to which involved pellets, whether spills occurred on land or waterways, and the extent to which spilled pellets were recovered. In 2017, joint venture SCG-Dow disclosed four high-severity spills that may have released up to 11,000 pounds of plastic powder or granules. Dow is listed as a member of Operation Clean Sweep, an industry program to prevent spills, but this initiative provides no public reporting. 

Given the severe biodiversity and economic impacts of plastic pollution described above, there is an urgent need to increase and improve reporting, as well as discussing accountability for pellet spill remediation in more detail.

BE IT RESOLVED:  Shareholders request that the Board of Directors of DowDuPont issue an annual report to shareholders, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on plastic pollution.  The report should disclose trends in the amount of pellets, powder or granules released to the environment by the company annually, and concisely assess the effectiveness of the company’s policies and actions to reduce the volume of the company’s plastic materials contaminating the environment. 

SUPPORTING STATEMENT:  Proponent recommends that the report include discussion of pellet loss prevention, cleanup and containment.  

Resolution Details

Company: DowDupont

Lead Filer: 
As You Sow 

Year: 2019

Filing Date: 
November 2019

Initiative(s): Plastic Pellet Pollution

Status: 6.74%

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