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Plastics in the environment: A close look at pellet losses

For some years now, the plastics industry in Europe has been striving to avoid pellet losses by launching a number of different programs. With the "Special report on pellet losses", which is now available as a supplement to the "From Land to Sea" and "Plastics in the Environment" models, a comprehensive investigation on pellet losses along the entire value chain has now been compiled for the first time in Germany. Pellet losses can occur during the production, processing and recycling of plastics and also during transport. The special report compiled by Conversio on behalf of the BKV, also provides information on how many pellets are discharged into the terrestrial and aquatic environments via the respective potential discharge sources at these stages in the value chain.



For the special report on pellet losses, Conversio made us of existing information and calculations that became available in the two models "From Land to Sea" – Model for the documentation of land-sourced plastic litter" and "Plastics in the Environment" and supplemented this with findings from further scientific studies. They include in particular the results from the joint projects "EmiStop" and "InRePlast" which were carried out as part of the BMBF research focus "Plastics in the Environment". Based on the present study situation sounded out in this way, and supplemented by talks with experts from the industry, the estimate was derived for an overall view of pellet losses in Germany. As a result, the special study provides a data model for Germany for the year 2020 and shows clearly at what points pellets are released, and which of them are of particular relevance for discharges into the environment.


The result is that, for the year 2020, the authors identified a total of 618 tonnes of plastic pellets that are discharged into the environment and remain there. The analysis found four major emission discharge pathways: firstly, pellets get into the mixed water sewage system in particular via process water and effluent, secondly, they can be produced on company sites especially when loading or unloading, thirdly, they are lost diffusely during transport, and fourthly, they occur when loading and unloading shipping freight. Based on their analysis, the authors nevertheless give appraise the discharge sources very differently with regard to the probability that pellets also get into the environment in other ways. Accordingly, river and sea ports probably make the largest contribution to the direct discharge of plastic pellets into the environment. Equally relevant contributions are possibly made by road transport, especially during the transport of pellets by tarpaulin-covered trucks. Direct discharges from plastics-processing companies and logistics centres, on the other hand, are lower. However, more significant quantities of plastic pellets get into the environment via the indirect route of rainwater drainage from run-off surfaces. Also with plastics producers, the authors believe the emission potential to be comparatively low despite the high volume of pellets produced. Silo filling facilities in protected areas and closed silos tankers that are used predominantly for transport offer little opportunity for losses to occur. Also the filling and bottling facilities that are concentrated at a few locations in Germany have good technical retention systems.


More information: How to order the “Special report on pellet losses


Your contact partner for this topic is Stephanie Cieplik



  • BKV GmbH
  • Photo: Fotolia


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