UK PVC manufacturers sign green charter

Industry-retailer joint venture targets improvements through whole product chain

Britain's two PVC manufacturers have signed an environmental performance charter in a joint initiative with several national supermarket groups claimed to be the first of its kind in the industry. The move was prompted by earlier threats by some retailers that they would phase out the use of PVC if producers failed to improve environmental standards (ENDS Daily 11 September 1997).

The main pledge undertaken by EVC International and Hydro Polymers is to help develop and comply with an eco-efficiency code of practice for PVC manufacture in cooperation with the National Centre for Business and Ecology (NCBE), which is working on behalf of four retail chains: CWS, Tesco, Waitrose and Asda.

NCBE director Erik Bichard said today that the code of practice would set much more stringent standards than a voluntary commitment announced last month by nine European PVC makers to reduce emissions of vinyl chloride monomer, a toxic intermediate product in the manufacturing process (ENDS Daily 9 February).

Although he stressed that many details remained to be finalised, Mr Bichard said the code would go beyond consideration of intermediate products alone, possibly including emissions of carbon dioxide.

The charter also binds the companies to "pursue mechanisms" to bring about environmental improvements in the whole product chain from producers to suppliers and customers, in what Mr Bichard said was a novel approach for the industry. Aimed in the first instance at improving PVC use in packaging, the approach will be extended to other uses if it proves successful.

The charter also challenges companies to "explore all possible futures for PVC" and to "radically reduce" the potential for end-of-life products containing PVC to accumulate in the environment.

The charter is the culmination of a process started by a report commissioned from the NCBE in 1997 by retailers and environmental group Greenpeace. Greenpeace, which is campaigning for a complete phase-out of the material, left the project after the report concluded that there was "no overriding scientific reason for retailers to immediately abandon the use of PVC in packaging or building materials."

Duncan Bowdler of CWS praised the group for having initiated the project and said he was pleased that the PVC manufacturers' had responded to its concerns by agreeing "in principle" to tighten environmental standards.

Follow Up:
NCBE, tel: +44 161 295 5276; CWS, tel: +44 161 834 1212.

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