EU launches debate on risks posed by PVC
BRUSSELS - The European Commission launched a debate on the future of PVC yesterday - the start of a process that could lead to restrictions on the production, use and disposal of the controversial but widely used plastic.
The Commission - the European Unions executive body - published a paper setting out its concerns about the possible health and environmental risks posed by that PVC, or polyvinyl chloride.
The paper highlights EU studies that show harmful chemicals can be released into the environment when waste PVC is incinerated or buried and show it is difficult to recycle.
The Commission considers waste will pose a growing problem as durable products such as pipes, cables and window frames come to the end of their lives in the coming years.
More than half of PVC used in Europe is in the construction industry, with packaging, vehicle manufacture and electrical and other household appliances also important users of PVC.
"PVC waste is likely to increase by 80 percent by 2020. This is a problem we must address now," Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said in a statement.
Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen stressed the need to deal with the chemical additives used to stabilise and soften PVC which have been linked to health problems.
The EU has already banned certain PVC baby toys because of fears that chemicals used to soften the plastic could pose a threat to childrens health when sucked.
"We...have to address the environmental issues posed by certain additives used in PVC...A range of measures is available to implement a Community (EU) strategy on PVC and will have to be considered during the consultation process," Liikanen said.
The six-month consultation process which will lead to the Commission proposing concrete measures on PVC early next year promises to be a heated debate.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace see PVC as a hazardous substance that should be completely banned, while the 72 billion euro ($67.73 billion) industry which employs 530,000 people making and processing PVC products in western Europe sees it as a highly desirable commodity.
The PVC industry immediately hit out at the paper, claiming its products were being unfairly singled out for regulation.
"The discussion points put forward by the Commission ...appear to be a compromise that favours traditional PVC industry opponents," the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers said in a statement.
"(The papers) focus on waste management is misguided because this is not a specific concern but a general resource issue for society as a whole," it said.
Greenpeaces Axel Singhofen said the paper showed the Commission would take strong action against PVC.
"The evidence against PVC presented in the (paper) is overwhelming - there can only be one consequence from it: PVC has got to go," Singhofen said in a statement.
Story by Robin Pomeroy
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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