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Operation Clean Sweep continues to guide firms on environment

Issue: June 2017

For at least one of the companies involved in the Plastics Industry Association’s Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), “going green” is a guiding principle.

Elle Brumley

“We are a social justice and environmental ministry organization, and we consider it our primary focus to stabilize and improve the environment we all live in,” said the Rev. Joseph T. Robinson Jr., the founder of PPRE-Forevergreen of Charlotte Inc., a waste-management company. “That includes ensuring that plastic and other materials don’t just sit in landfills when they can be recycled, reused and remanufactured.”

Keeping pellets off the floor and out of the environment takes commitment from the entire supply chain. As OCS enters its 26th year, companies continue to sign on to the challenge. “Operation Clean Sweep has evolved, but the goal to achieve zero pellet, flake and powder loss has never changed,” said Elle Brumley, the association’s senior manager for industry affairs.

Established in 1991, OCS provides training and information to help companies avoid releasing plastics into the environment. Hundreds of companies, including PPRE-Forevergreen, which trains formerly incarcerated people and provides skilled workers for recycling and energy companies, have pledged to participate over the years.

“OCS 2.0 includes new beneficial aspects to help make the program as accurate and useful for the industry as possible,” Brumley said.

Through the program, member companies can access a manual with recommendations dealing with an entire range of operations, from transporting pellets to setting up a worksite and preventing spills, which can cause environmental issues, as well as slip-and-fall injuries. A host of recommendations deal with equipment and machinery. They include:

• Conduct routine inspections and regularly maintain equipment used to contain pellets.

• Keep all equipment in good working order.

• Install central vacuum systems where practical.

• Operate conveying systems properly to avoid issues, such as clogging, that would require that the lines be opened.

• If a line must be opened to clear a blockage, place a catch pan or tarp under the connection to catch potential spills.

• Install at least one pellet-specific waste container in each pellet-handling area. Use separate containers to distinguish between recyclable and nonrecyclable pellets.

• Use cutting equipment, such as granulators, that’s appropriate for the size of the material it cuts, and check regularly to be sure the blades are sharp.

• Use dust-collection equipment in all areas where dust is generated, and clean or replace filters regularly.

While some of the recommended clean-up  and spill-prevention equipment is sophisticated, other go-to items are common-sense. Items that should be available throughout the plant include brooms, dustpans, rakes, rolls of tape, heavy-duty shop vacs and puncture-resistant containers.

One recommendation forms a common thread throughout the OCS manual: “Make spill prevention, cleanup and containment a company philosophy and priority.”

The association continues to spread the mission of OC as the program evolves.

For example, OCS 2.0 counts individual facilities rather than companies, with the goal of ultimately having all 16,668 plastics facilities in the U.S. sign the pledge to work toward zero pellet, powder and flake loss, placing more responsibility on facilities instead of focusing solely on companies. OCS 2.0 also now requires facilities to renew their commitments every three years.

“We will contact companies every three years to ensure their continuing commitment and update records as necessary,” Brumley said.

Some companies consider it critical to spread the word about OCS 2.0 whenever possible. Arlington, Texas-based D.R. Joseph Inc., for example, doesn’t sell commercial resin-containment systems — the company only builds small custom solutions for its training facility — but minimizing plastic’s impact on the environment has become an increasingly critical task for everyone, CEO Daniel Joseph said.

“We participate in the plastics industry program of Operation Clean Sweep because of our training facility; we always make a small presentation of Operation Clean Sweep to all attendees,” Joseph said. D.R. Joseph makes equipment for the blown film industry.

For the hundreds of companies that have committed to OCS, containing pellets is a step toward greener operations.

Michael T. McCue, copy editor


For more information

Operation Clean Sweep, https://opcleansweep.org

The Plastics Industry Association,
Washington, 202-974-5200, www.plasticsindustry.org