PLASTICS: Operation Clean Sweep launches rigorous inspection program

Jan. 19, 2024
Voluntary verification process to reduce resin loss makes an outstanding program even better.

Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), a program managed by PLASTICS in partnership with the American Chemistry Council Plastics Division, is dedicated to helping companies that handle resin safely prevent resin loss to the environment. More than 3,300 companies worldwide have committed to the OCS mission.

The initiative has two tiers: The standard tier of OCS entails implementing a core set of strategies to prevent and mitigate resin loss. These include prioritizing zero resin loss, assessing the risk of resin loss at facilities, upgrading equipment and training employees. The second is called “OCS Blue” that currently has more than 50 participating companies in the United States, representing more than 400 facilities.

OCS Blue, a more rigorous level of commitment, requires all of a company’s resin-handling operations in the U.S. to participate, as well as provide data reporting. Recently, OCS Blue has taken a large step forward with the introduction of the OCS Blue Verification program.

A new, mandatory requirement for all material suppliers and processors in OCS Blue, the OCS Blue Verification creates a more robust and transparent program, requiring external inspections at the facility level. For each inspection, a facility must demonstrate that it has successfully implemented 29 required management practices, ranging from identifying and combatting areas of risk to promoting resin loss prevention with supply chain partners.

Where it started

In 2020, a diverse group of OCS Blue members and industry experts from across the country started working together to develop the OCS Blue Verification program. The original group comprised material suppliers, processors, service providers and transportation companies. The development process also included multiple pilots at OCS Blue member companies to help understand how inspections worked in practice and to incorporate that feedback into the program’s development. After more than two and a half years in development, the OCS Blue Verification program officially launched in September.

How it works

During each three-year cycle, OCS Blue member companies must achieve OCS Blue Verification at a subset of their facilities, based on the overall number of eligible facilities in their portfolio. The first verification cycle runs from September 2023 through the end of 2025, with the second cycle 2026-2028. Over time, 100 percent of facilities must be successfully verified and demonstrate that they have successfully implemented all 29 required management practices across five categories.

In order to schedule an inspection, an OCS Blue member must contract directly with an approved OCS Blue Verifier that meets eligibility criteria. Currently, more than a dozen companies have approved OCS Blue Verifiers on staff and are able to conduct OCS Blue Verification inspections. The OCS Blue Verification program is designed to be modular and flexible so companies can easily integrate inspections into ISO Certification or schedule alongside Responsible Care audits.

Demonstrating environmental stewardship

By securing OCS Blue Verification, a company demonstrates significant leadership in industry-led, voluntary stewardship to protect the environment, preserve water quality and wildlife, and strengthen worker safety. Through external inspections, the program allows companies to show stakeholders, from customers to shareholders to supply chain partners, that they have successfully implemented strategies to prevent and mitigate plastic resin loss across facilities.

Verification also is an effective way to demonstrate our industry’s dedication to resin loss prevention worldwide. As of 2023, OCS inspection programs were launched throughout Europe, as well as in Turkey. OCS programs in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and New Zealand have blazed the trail developing OCS inspection programs in recent years, as well.

OCS recently published a Guide to International OCS Programs which provides companies considering OCS membership a guide to understanding how to join the program in more than 65 countries. A webinar exploring the guide is scheduled for Jan. 16 and is open to the public.