Plastic Pellet Pollution

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 9:24 PM


While there is a considerable amount of information out there about the pollution caused by plastic grocery bags, there is not as much publicity about the plastic pellets which they are made from.  This blog post will investigate the pollution caused as a side effect of production process.  We will investigate two studies into this little known variety of plastic pollution.  First let us cover what, exactly, a plastic pellet is.  The plastic pellets are also called resin, and come in a variety of shapes and colors.  Based on an EPA study we will look at next, there was an estimated 60 billion pounds of resin manufactured in the US a year in the early 90s.

The first report we will look at is from the EPA and dates from December of 1992, which gives you some idea of how long the problem of plastic pellet pollution has been a concern.  This study was done based on the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, the idea was to help the plastic industry better control this environmental danger through the development and implementation of voluntary pellet-control programs.  Through this study the EPA determined two primary methods of the pellets getting into the water, the first through CSO and storm-water discharges and the other through direct spills (such as during cargo handling).  According to the study the problem of plastic pellets was originally reported in the 70s, and now affects the whole world’s oceans.  As a result of the findings of the EPA study and with the collaboration of the group SPI (Society of the Plastic Industries), several programs were put into place to reduce the amount of plastic pellets finding their way into the watershed and harbors.  These programs included Operation Clean Sweep (an education campaign for the plastic industry) and the SPI 1991 Pellet Retention Environmental Code.

Now we turn to another body of research, this time from the Marine Sciences Department of the University of the Aegean in Greece, which investigates the pollution in the coastal areas of Lesvos Island.  The report states that plastic pellets are found on beaches around the world as well as the sea floor.  According to the study plastic pellets were found on all five sandy beaches that were sampled, even though the sampling only took placeon the surface of the sand.  Based on the research it was concluded that 2/3 of the pellets found were made of polyethylene; which is the type of pellets that plastic bags are made from.
If you are interested in reading the studies that this blog post is on here they are.

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