Brigitte Dero, the managing director of VinylPlus, issued the following statement:
“VinylPlus, the voluntary commitment to sustainable development of the European PVC industry, regrets the outcome of today’s vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg concerning the proposed derogation for the continuous use of recycled PVC containing legacy lead substances. This vote contradicts the outcome of the rigorous scientific evaluation carried out over the last five years by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which concluded that continued recycling is currently the best waste management option for PVC wastes containing such additives.
In the absence of any alternative solution, the logic of today’s vote is that many end-of-life PVC articles from long-life applications will have to be disposed of by incineration or landfill, leading to a much higher environmental burden for the next generations. The vote also implies delaying the restriction on the imports of lead containing PVC articles to Europe. The resulting legislative uncertainty jeopardises the investment in recycling technology, undermines the European strategy for plastics in Circular Economy and impacts considerably the ability to reach the recycling targets of the European Circular Plastics Alliance.”
Suitable for a wide range of applications, PVC contains less carbon than most other thermoplastics. In Europe, the VinylPlus programme – a voluntary commitment of the PVC industry - has been established with as goal, among others to promote the sustainability potential of PVC, including its market competitiveness, while ‘openly challenging components, materials and practices which do not make sense in terms of sustainable development’
It provides a long-term framework for the sustainable development of the industry in the EU-27, Norway, Switzerland and the UK and operates in coordination with hundreds of PVC converting companies who are part of the Vinyl Foundation - a not-for-profit and independently-managed trust – as well as with a large number of sector-specific and national PVC associations.
PVC applications can have useful life spans that go well beyond what is usual in plastic products before entering into the waste chain. Because of the long life of so many of the products made from PVC, a major issue in PVC recycling are legacy additives: substances that are no longer used in new PVC products but that can be present in recycled PVC, such as lead and cadmium stabilisers, and certain phthalate plasticisers. However, as they are in the material flow, they need to be managed in the best way possible. At the same time, further entry of such substances must be restricted in new products. As The Natural Step, an organization dedicated to accelerating sustainable development, wrote in its 2018 report on ‘Legacy additives in rigid PVC’: “We view the circular economy as critical to creating a truly prosperous and sustainable society in the long term. Getting there will require a step-wise transition pathway that avoids immediate rejection of recycled materials even if the constituents are not fully compliant with current guidance for substances permitted in virgin materials. The long-term criteria for success (sustainability principles) can guide management options in the present perspective to find the optimal pathway toward the goal.”