Most of us try to be good environmental stewards by recycling at home and work and by monitoring our water consumption. Even my two young children are learning in daycare about the importance of recycling and taking care of our planet.
A big focus in recent years is reducing plastic waste in the environment and in landfills, as only 10% of all post-use plastics is recycled. But plastic is critical to our everyday lives. Many products -- from water bottles and food packaging to car parts, medical supplies and electronics – are made from plastic resin, a product that comes in many forms but often looks like small, round white pellets.
Proper handling of this resin is critical given its shape and size. When not properly contained, plastic resin can get into our waterways and oceans, potentially leading to negative environmental impacts.
The issue is even more important when you consider that since 2010, petrochemical companies have invested more than $200 billion to expand plastic resin production capacity along the U.S. Gulf Coast. To support this growing market, Union Pacific has invested heavily in its Gulf Coast rail network, adding terminal and rail car switching capacity. And as the industry’s premier rail transportation provider, we know we must do our part to safely handle this product and take actions to prevent spills.
Our commitment is underscored by having taken the Operation Clean Sweep pledge. Operation Clean Sweep (OCS) is a product stewardship program of the American Chemistry Council and Plastics Industry Association designed to help companies that handle plastic resin share best practices as they work toward achieving zero plastic pellet loss and keep pellets out of our waterways.
More than 300 U.S. companies and more than 60 international plastics organizations are part of the OCS program. For our part, Union Pacific Operating team members are being trained to call our Response Management Communications Center when plastic pellets or flakes are found on our property so they can be properly cleaned up. It’s just like the old saying: If you see something, say something.
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We also are formalizing procedures to ensure our Storage in Transit yards and other key rail yards in the Gulf Coast area are routinely inspected and cleaned; and we are collaborating with our petrochemical customers – who also have taken the OCS pledge -- to prevent leaking rail cars.
Operation Clean Sweep is just one of the many steps we’ve taken to reduce our environmental impact, as outlined in our Climate Action Plan. It’s part of a comprehensive ESG initiative called Building a Sustainable Future 2030 and is aligned with Union Pacific’s strategic framework to Serve, Grow, Win - Together. We also recently announced our partnership with Cyclyx and look forward to supporting the members to develop supply chain solutions for increasing plastic recycling rates.
Our commitment to the environment cannot end at work. On a daily basis we all must look for ways to be environmental stewards by recycling at home and monitoring our water consumption. I am proud to work for a company that not only is Building America but is focused on building a better environment for future generations.