EU parliamentarian urges PVC substitution

Product replacement "desirable" to reduce impact of polymer on environment, says rapporteur

The EU should substitute many PVC products with alternative materials, a key MEP will tell colleagues in the European Parliament next week. In a debate on the European Commission's green paper on PVC, published last year, Italian socialist Guido Sacconi will also ask fellow members of the assembly's environment committee to endorse his call for heavy metal lead additives to be banned.

"A gradual and practicable policy of replacing PVC with alternative products is not only desirable but also feasible," and is "the only real solution for limiting uncontrolled build-up of PVC waste in landfill sites," Mr Sacconi says in a report for the committee. Replacement should focus on three product types, he says: those which have a "direct bearing on health," such as food packaging and medical materials; disposable products; and difficult-to-separate items such as car interiors.

The PVC industry today rejected the MEP's arguments. "We're really surprised that Mr Sacconi has made the assumption that substitution is either possible or desirable - it's unwarranted and there's no need for it," Martin Griffiths of the European council of vinyl manufacturers told ENDS Daily. "For items such as medical blood bags PVC is the preferred choice, and it's more thoroughly researched than any alternative."

He also rejected the MEP's suggestion that lead should be outlawed as a PVC stabiliser. "Lead has been used [in PVC] for more than fifty years with no measurable impact on health or the environment," said Mr Griffiths, adding that alternatives do not exist for some applications. Mr Sacconi's report acknowledges this by suggesting temporary derogations from a general phase-out.

But the report also provides some succour to an industry battling to prevent the Commission proposing PVC-specific legislation. Mr Sacconi says PVC waste collection and recycling rates should be increased through voluntary measures albeit within an agreed EU framework for environmental agreements, with clear penalties for failure to meet targets. The industry supports this move and has proposed its own draft of such an agreement. Mr Sacconi says it needs to go further, however.

Moreover, though he says that landfill is currently the "best management option" for PVC, incineration with energy recovery should be promoted by separating out soft PVC for preferential burning and introducing cleaner technology.

Follow Up:
European Parliament environment committee, tel: +32 2 284 2111, and the Sacconi report, available in other EU languages here; the PVC industry initiative, managed by ECVM, tel: +32 2 676 7211.

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