DuPont shareholders pass a vote

Vote in favor of supporting plastic pellet pollution reporting

In the highest vote on plastic pellet pollution to-date, a majority of investors at DuPont voted in support of an As You Sow shareholder resolution asking the company to produce an annual report on the amount of pre-production plastic the company releases into the environment annually. The company will tally and release the final vote percentages at the end of this week, but confirmed the preliminary vote was greater than 50% in support.

“Today’s vote demonstrates investor interest in taking action on a silent but deadly contributor to the global plastic pollution crisis,” said Kelly McBee, waste program coordinator at As You Sow. “Pellet spills have been ongoing for decades but the industry has failed to proactively respond. Public reporting of spills is the first step in corporate accountability for plastic pellet pollution.”

Plastic pellets are the building blocks for nearly all plastic products and are estimated to be the second largest direct source of microplastic pollution to the ocean by weight. Once produced by petrochemical companies like DuPont pellets are transported by rail, ship, or road to a second or third destination before being melted into a final product. It is estimated that throughout the pellet supply chain an estimated 10 trillion plastic pellets are spilled and unrecovered every year.

DuPont is the latest in a series of companies As You Sow has engaged on reducing plastic pellet pollution. Companies that have agreed to report their spill data include: Chevron Phillips Chemical, Exxon Mobil Chemical, Eastman Chemical, Westlake Chemical, Occidental Petroleum, and Dow Chemical. However, so far, only Chevron Phillips Chemical, Exxon, and Dow have begun to provide data.

An estimated 11 million metric tons of plastics — including pellets — leak into oceans annually and this figure is expected to grow to 24 million metric tons by 2040. Once in the environment, pellets can absorb toxins from the water. Often mistaken as food, these pellets can be eaten by marine life when pellet absorbed toxins can be potentially transferred to humans through consumption of seafood. Ocean plastic pollution causes fatalities in more than 800 marine species from ingestion, entanglement, suffocation, or drowning.

More than 200 pellet, flake, and powder spills have been reported to the National Response Center since reporting began. These pellet spills create financial risk. Petrochemical and plastics companies have recently paid substantial fines for pellet releases, with the largest fine reaching $50 million.

DuPont is a member of Operation Clean Sweep, an industry program that has been revealed to be designed largely to fend off regulation, not to ensure compliance nor success. Operation Clean Sweep provides best practices to reduce pellet loss but does not facilitate public reporting on spill incidents, as the As You Sow resolution requests.

“We encourage DuPont to respond swiftly to its investors and proactively curb the plastic pollution it is responsible for by joining its peers in publicly reporting its pellet handling information and spill data,”said McBee. 

To learn more about As You Sow’s work on plastic pellets, click here.