A spokesperson for the association claimed the commitment was ground-breaking because it concerned not only PVC manufacturers but also makers of stabilisers and plasticisers, plus plastic converters. All four industries were cooperating in order to improve the life-cycle environmental performance of PVC, he said.
It remains to be seen what effect the initiative will have on the European Commission, which is due to propose new EU policies on environmental risks of PVC following release of a swathe of consultancy studies. The reports have been seen as challenging to the industry (ENDS Daily 17 April), though PVC makers have questioned the findings (ENDS Daily 8 May).
Under the commitment, PVC firms pledge to achieve environmental improvements during manufacturing already committed in a 1999 charter for emulsion PVC (ENDS Daily 9 February 1999) and a charter signed in 1995 for suspension PVC. Individual firms from all four industry sectors commit to set targets to improve their eco-efficiency by reducing consumption of raw materials.
Plasticiser manufacturers pledge to complete a life-cycle database of their products by the end of this year. Stabiliser firms commit to ending the use of elemental cadmium "within one year" though cadmium stearate and laurate would not be affected. Companies also say they will "support" an existing trend towards lower use of lead-based stabilisers.
Signatories say they will work to expand mechanical recycling of PVC, including commitments to increase recycling of plastic pipes and of window frames to 25% by 2003 and 50% by 2005. For other applications, the industries say, "more work is needed" to develop recycling, but higher mechanical recycling targets will be set "as soon as possible". PVC makers commit to aid the process by developing the use of recyclate in new products.
The commitment also includes research into feedstock recycling, which signatories say they assume will make a "substantial contribution" to overall recycling by 2005. Around euros 3m is to be invested in a pilot plant by 2001, and a decision is to be made on whether to build a commercial operation in mid-2002.
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