Preventing spills of plastic pellets: a feasibility analysis of regulatory options

Plastic pellets (also called ‘nurdles’) are small pieces of plastics, typically between 1 and 5 mm in diameter, produced by the petrochemical industry which serve as an input for the plastics industry to manufacture plastic products. Large quantities of pellets are transported over sea, typically in freight containers. During normal transport operations, pellets leak and end up in the marine environment. Occasionally, accidents with containers result in large spills. In the marine environment, pellets cause environmental damage and impact fishing, aquaculture and tourism industries.

The PPR, a Subcommittee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is considering regulatory options to address the release of pellets in the marine environment. A correspondence group has identified three mandatory regulatory options, which will be further considered during the tenth PPR session in April 2023. This report evaluates the effectiveness and feasibility of the options. It finds that different aspects of risk mitigation are tackled by the different options to different degrees and that the effectiveness of the options could be enhanced by strengthening either the packaging requirements or the stowage requirements in the options. It also concludes that all options would be feasible to implement by actors in the transport chain, regulators and inspectors. The additional costs of all options appear to be manageable, based on feedback from interviewees.

More about