European PVC firms sign environmental charter

Industry extends 1995 commitment to emulsion PVC, promises third party verification

Nine European manufacturers of emulsion PVC have signed an environmental charter setting out voluntary commitments to reduce emissions of toxic vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) from their production processes.

The initiative builds on a charter signed in 1995 by manufacturers of suspension PVC, which accounts for 85% of the plastic's production. According to the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers (ECVM), the new move means that virtually all PVC producers in western Europe have now accepted voluntary environmental guidelines. The signatories include BASF of Germany, Elf Atochem of France, EVC of the Netherlands, Norsk Hydro of Norway and Solvay of Belgium.

Under the charter, signatory companies agree to "prevent any detrimental effects from their operations and products," to "comply, as a minimum requirement with environmental regulations," and to "achieve a 'closed loop' concept production process as far as is feasible".

Signatories commit to recover and recycle "all recoverable quantities" of VCM "as far as it is possible;" to treat residual levels before discharge to the environment; to keep "all significant outlets," such as vents, under surveillance; to reduce fugitive emissions, and to ensure that final emulsion PVC products contain no more than one gram of VCM per tonne.

The industry also commits to share environmental control knowledge as a basis for achieving a constant improvement in environmental performance, which the ECVM claims to be a significant new commitment for a competitive industry. Signatories agree to invest in research, and to annually review priority standard targets and future areas for action.

The charter includes a number of specific targets for VCM control, to be achieved by 2003. According to the ECVM, all signatory firms will have their performance reviewed at that time by an independent third party, such as an accredited environmental verifier. The association has also announced the start of verification for signatories of the 1995 charter, which set targets to be achieved by the end of 1998. Det Norske Veritas is undertaking the work, according to ECVM, and results will be published this June.

Follow Up:
ECVM, tel: +32 2 676 7211.

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