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May 04, 2021

Record-Setting 81% of DuPont Shareholders Approve Proposal Calling for Plastic Pellet Pollution Reporting

In a record-high vote on an environmentally oriented shareholder proposal that was opposed by management, a whopping 81.2% of investors at DuPont supported an As You Sow shareholder resolution asking the company to report on spills of plastic pellets that are released into the environment. The company released the final tally Friday from its April 28 annual general meeting.

Record-Setting 81% of DuPont Shareholders Approve Proposal Calling for Plastic Pellet Pollution Reporting

BERKELEY, CA—MAY 3, 2021—In a record-high vote on an environmentally oriented shareholder proposal that was opposed by management, a whopping 81.2% of investors at DuPont supported an As You Sow shareholder resolution asking the company to report on spills of plastic pellets that are released into the environment. The company released the final tally Friday from its April 28 annual general meeting.

“This vote confirms a tidal wave of support by investors to confront a deadly contributor to the global plastic pollution crisis, as well as a historically high-vote result for a common sense request that the company provide public reporting on spills of pre-production plastic pellets,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow.

The 81% support for the resolution is “the highest vote ever for a shareholder resolution on an environmental issue that was opposed by management,” according to  Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute, which tracks shareholder votes. 

Plastic pellets, sometimes called nurdles, are the building blocks for nearly all plastic products and 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 manufacturer to be transformed into a finished product. It is estimated that 10 trillion plastic pellets are spilled throughout the supply chain 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 unless a range of drastic remedial actions are taken. Once in the environment, pellets can absorb toxins from river and ocean water. Often mistaken as food, these pellets can be eaten by marine life and toxins that may have adhered to pellets 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 plastic pellet, flake, and powder spills have been reported to the National Response Center since reporting began. These pellet spills create financial risk for the petrochemical industry. 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 accused of being created largely to fend off regulation, not to ensure compliance. Operation Clean Sweep provides best practices to reduce pellet loss, but does not facilitate public reporting on spill incidents or adoption of best practices, as the As You Sow resolution requests.

“We encourage DuPont to respond swiftly to its investors and join with peers in publicly reporting its pellet handling information and spill data,” 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.”

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