In a record-high vote on an environmentally oriented shareholder proposal that was opposed by management, a whopping 81.2% of investors of DuPont supported a 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.
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 is 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 the consumption of seafood. Ocean plastic pollution causes fatalities in more than 800 marine species from ingestion, entanglement, suffocation, or drowning.