Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) is an initiative founded by PLASTICS to empower companies committed to zero resin loss in operations and provide those companies with resources to support secure management of plastic resin. The program is operated by PLASTICS in partnership with the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division. The industry-led program gathered its OCSblue members in Houston on November 2nd, 2022 to chart the program’s expansion through 2023 and beyond. OCSblue is the highest level of OCS commitment.  

More than 40 attendees from 25 OCSblue companies joined the conversation, hosted by PLASTICS and OCSblue member SABIC at their Houston offices, to guide 2023 planning and discuss strategic direction. As PLASTICS’ Vice President of Sustainability Patrick Krieger shared in his opening remarks, more than 47 companies with 514 facilities have joined OCSblue, demonstrating their leadership in mitigating plastic waste in the environment. Indeed, OCSblue membership has surged, with the program growing more than four-fold since 2018. 

Members educating members 

OCSblue builds off OCS’s base tier of membership by requiring that a company to commit not only to working towards zero resin loss, but to onboarding all resin-handling facilities in their portfolio to conduct internal audits, train employees, and report data annually. Many OCSblue members have expanded areas of focus including partnering with transportation providers, recycling material that has been recovered, as well as integrating efforts into stormwater management and holistic ESG strategies. These efforts were discussed in depth at the Houston meeting, with several OCSblue members stepping up to share their expertise and highlight areas where the program can evolve moving forward. 

Brittany Darras, Senior Sustainability Manager at Braskem, kicked off a discussion around partnering with logistics providers and underscored the critical need for strong relationships with those moving resin by truck, rail, or sea.  

Pivoting to the topic of going beyond remediation for released material and ensuring that spilled resin is recycled, PSC Group Vice President of Sustainability Chris Lendo shared his thinking on how companies can institute thoughtful collection to ensure circularity.  

Lastly, ExxonMobil Environmental Advisor John Faber explored how material suppliers and processors can engage directly with the wastewater community, informed by his involvement in the Water Environment Federation’s Industrial Wastewater Committee.  

Opportunities for growth 

In addition to these areas of increased interest, OCSblue members unpacked key priority areas for the program’s growth, including third-party verification, data reporting, common industry practice sharing, and international harmonization. Not only has OCS expanded meaningfully within the U.S., it has also proliferated to 69 countries. Charlotte Dreizen, PLASTICS’ Director of Sustainability and Environment, walked through approaches under consideration that would forge closer ties between international programs, not only in an effort to cross-pollinate successful strategies but to create streamlined experiences for multi-national companies managing facilities globally across numerous jurisdictions. 

In addition to harmonizing program elements like data reporting and international third-party verification , these areas are domains that OCSblue members emphasized as ripe opportunities to expand within the U.S. program. Allison Chertack, Manager of Plastics Sustainability at ACC, led the brainstorming session around potentially incorporating additional qualitative data or quantitatively tracking material that is collected and remediated, two areas where data tracking could be expanded. 

Inspection of resin management protocols is another area where international OCS programs have excelled, most notably in Canada and Europe. David Sandidge, Consultant for OCS, shed light on how the OCSblue program in the U.S. can strengthen its internal audit requirement by developing a third-party verification program in which member company facilities can bring in inspectors to perform an OCS audit alongside inspections for ISO 14001 among other protocols. Moreover, Sandidge shared success stories and lessons learned from three initial pilots executed in 2022 with OCSblue material suppliers, each with a distinct audit service provider. OCSblue members devised a second phase of pilots for 2023 for processors and others in the supply chain. 

Planning for the future 

Complementing these growth areas—from third-party verification and tracking data to recycling remediated resin and engaging transportation partners--is the priority of creating more robust, dynamic resources. PLASTICS’ Sustainability and Materials Manager, Heather Nortz facilitated conversation around new education, resources, and collaboration platforms that OCSblue members have identified as critical to equipping their frontline workers and strategic decision-makers alike to achieve zero resin loss. Brad Sparks, SABIC Senior Manager for Sustainability Strategy in the Americas, explained how OCS can represent a central piece of broader ESG, materiality, and circular economy strategy. 

Over the course of the in-person gathering, OCSblue members affirmed their commitment to achieving zero resin loss in operations. From material suppliers to processors to logistics providers of all sizes,  OCSblue members thought creatively about how to continue elevating their resin management practices and increase transparency of practices throughout the supply chain. As OCS continues to drive its member-led and member-driven program forward, companies who make, use, or move resin are welcome to reach out to ocs@plasticsindustry.org to learn how they can join the community of companies leading responsible management of plastic resin.