Exxon Mobil Corporation: Disclosure of Plastic Pellet Spills and Cleanup Actions
WHEREAS: Plastic pollution is a global environmental crisis. ExxonMobil is is one of the world’s largest chemical companies and a top producer of plastics such as polypropylene and polyethylene. ExxonMobil Chemical Co., as a major petrochemical producer, operates facilities that produce plastic pellets.
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 such plastic pellets are swept into waterways during production or transport annually and increasingly found on beaches and shorelines, adding to harmful levels of plastic pollution in the environment.
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 $13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems annually. If no action is taken, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Pellets are similar in size and shape to fish eggs and are often mistaken by marine animals for food. Plastic pellets can absorb toxins 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. The United Nations Undersecretary-General has called this issue “an ocean Armageddon.” The U.S. Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 banned one form of microplastic pollution—microbeads used in cosmetic products.
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.
ExxonMobil Chemical Co. is listed as a member of Operation Clean Sweep, an industry program that encourages use of best practices for pellet management and containment to reduce pellet loss, 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 on pellet spills and remediation, as well as discussing accountability for pellet spill remediation in more detail.
BE IT RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors of ExxonMobil 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.
Company: Exxon Mobil Corporation
As You Sow
Initiative(s): Plastic Pellet Pollution
Status: Agreement Reached; Resolution Withdrawn