The problems with PVC plastic - by wuyunyi


									       PVC plastic or Vinyl
     –An ‗environmental poison‘

                 Beverley Thorpe
              Clean Production Action

23/01/2009      Clean Production Action   1
PVC (vinyl) - common in products

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             When labeled …

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             Soft vinyl used in
•   Children‘s toys
•   Imitation leather (shoes) and sandals
•   Backpacks, rain coats, rain boots, bags
•   Shower curtains, coated fabrics
•   Cables on electronic equipment
•   Coatings on wallpaper
•   Vinyl flooring
•   Medical devices: blood bags, tubing, gloves

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             PVC (vinyl) – common in

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        Majority of vinyl (60%) used in
• Pipes for water, sewerage
• Cladding on the outside of houses – vinyl
• Flooring
• Window frames
• Doors
• Fencing

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     PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Plastic
       has problems all along the
Second most common plastic in use

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Products need to be considered in their life cycle –
  current production is too linear and generates
               hazardous wastes

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  PVC is inherently toxic throughout
             its lifecycle
• Myriad problems go back to the same two
  causes that are specific for PVC:

     – It is made of chlorine
     – It requires large amounts of additives to be

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                                VCM                                                     Stabilisers:
                                                                                        e.g. Pb, Cd
Use - Disposal

                                       Cl-polymer                 Additives             (0,1-2,5 %)
                                   (Cl-content 14-53%) (content 7-75 %)
                              HCL                                                       e.g. DEHP
                              Dioxin (production, accidental fires, landfill fires, incineration, metal recycling)

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    PVC production: a toxic brew
• Pure PVC consists of 57% chlorine
• Chlorine maufacture may use mercury cells in
  the chlor-alki process
• Could be largest source of mercury to air
• vinyl production in USA responsible for 26 tons
  of mercury
• MERCURY escapes to air and turns into form
  extremely toxic at low levels
• Global contaminant in fish
• Neurological problems in children particuarly

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             EDC production
• ‗possible carcinogen‘
• Known water contaminant
• Known air contaminant
• EDC tars previously dumped at sea, then
  incinerated at sea, now incinerated on site
  or dumped down old mine shafts
• Very high levels of dioxin

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     EDC production and workers
• Lawsuit (1998) against 28 former exec of Italian
  VCM producers charged with responsibility of
  deaths by cancer of 157 workers – settled with
  financial compensation to victims

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   Vinyl choride monomer (VCM)
• VCM well known to cause liver cancer
• 2003 Italian study found PVC workers had
  higher cases of death, tumors, lung
  cancer, lymphomas, leukemias and liver
  cirrhosis. Possible increased brain cancer
• Communities next to production sites
  contaminated by VCM in air and water

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             VCM into white powder
• VCM turned into fine power handled by
  workers known as PVC baggers.
• Increased lung cancers in this group

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             PVC – the additive trap
• Pure PVC is useless; hundreds of
  additives, softeners, plasticisers
  (phthalates) >>> toxic to reproduction
• Stabilizers eg lead, cadmium, organotin
  compounds >>>>toxic releases
• Product testing of children‘s toys and
  clothng found high levels of lead and

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             Softeners: phthalates
• Now found globally in rain water, soil, food, and
  in humans and wildlife
• 90 percent of all phthalates are used in vinyl
• Animal studies: Damages sexual development in
  young rats, causes liver tumors
• In humans: Impairs male reproductive system
  development in human infants and toddlers

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         Chlorine in = dioxin out
• PVC when burned                                                        PVC waste on the rise

  will generate dioxins                                       8
  the most toxic                                              7

  chemical ever made                                          5   4.1

                                             Million tonnes
• PVC will be burned

                                                              3                Total over 20 years -
                                                                                113 million tonnes
  in housefires, plastic                                      2

  waste burning,                                              0
                                       Bags of incineration ash from pvc
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  Wonder why dioxins are formed in
  incinerators? Trace the chlorine!
• PVC responsible for 38% to 66% of
  chlorine content in municipal solid waste-
  arguably most significant source of dioxin
  generation today

• No other plastic contains chlorine

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             PVC and POPS
• PVC is arguable the
  most significant
  source of chlorine as
  global dioxin
• Global expansion of
  PVC industry a global

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             Burning PVC cables

• Current focus e-waste exports from USA
• PVC in cables and computers being
  burned in open fires>>>dioxins

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     PVC creates acidic smoke (HCl)
             when burned
I kg of PVC in an incinerator
   produces 1 kg of
   hazardous residues
This is land filled releasing
   toxins over time (at right:
   bags of incineration ash)
Incineration does not reduce
   the amount of waste
Incinerating PVC produces

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      GLOBALLY-former long life pvc
      products to enter current waste

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  PVC production increasing in Asia
• Biggest increase will be in Asia, --China and to a
  lesser extent Vietnam and India
• Japan produces 2,225,000 Tons
• Korea produces 1,221,000 Tons
• Taiwan             1,484,000 tons
• China               3,000,000 tons and
                             imports 2,440
• Other Asia         2,100,000 tons
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             PVC producers in Asia
• Shin-Etsu Chemical Company (Japan, US,
  Western Europe)
• Formosa Plastics Corporation (Taiwan,
• Solvay S.A. (Eurpean, Brazil, Thailand)
• LG Group (Korea, China – includes 85%
  ownership of Tianjin LG)

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             Global trade
• Shin-Etsu (largest PVC producer in the
  world) does not manufacture VCM but
  gets supplies from others such as Dow
  Chemical in the USA

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             The PVC waste crisis

                           No time to waste!

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             PVC legacy about to hit
• 300 million tons PVC produced globally
  since 1960s
• Half already disposed to landfills and
• Half still in current use (construction
  materials = average life 34 years)
• 1960s construction waste about to hit!
• So what do we do with it?

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   What the PVC industry says…

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    PVC is not and can not be safely
• 0.1% total pvc use currently recycled
• Incompatible with potential recycling of
  other plastics – contaminates others
• High collection and separation costs
• Downcycling shifts disposal problems to
  other products/countries

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PVC waste crisis will demand more
    incineration by industry
• ―…the future will see a major increase in
  the recycling of PVC through energy
  recovery by incineration. This is because
  mechanical recycling levels appear to
  have peaked with no obvious hope of an
  increase to come.
             -Occidental Chemical spokesman, 1997

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             EU Studies on PVC (2000) -
• Mechanical recycling will not contribute
  significantly to management of PVC post-
  consumer wastes; reaching at best 18% of the
  total in 2020

• Landfilling releases hazardous phthalate
  softeners and will contribute to formation of
  dioxins in accidental landfill fires

• At most only 3% of vinyl will be recycled by 2010
• But increase of 80% PVC waste by 2020

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 The only solution to PVC problems
     along the lifecycle is to…


• And use alternative materials in products

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 PVC-free alternatives exist!
Many used in Sidney Olympics

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             Government initiatives…
• Germany: gradual phase out of soft PVC,
  no landfilling of PVC, no spreading of
  hazardous substances via recycling,phase
  out of Cd and Pb, use of chlorine-free
  materials in certain inflammable areas
             • -German EPA recommendations (1999)
• 274 communitites and 6 Federal States
  have PVC restrictions

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Local authorities restricting PVC
• Spain: 62 Spanish cities have been declared
  PVC free and award tax relief to builders who
  avoid PVC
• Anti PVC procurement guidelines in Austria,
  Netherlands, Nordic countries, UK, Japan and
  even USA
• Japan cities using non pvc pipes; increasing
  public concern and action against dioxin

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• German Wood and Plastic Processors
  Labour Union :
―problems associated with this material must
  be addressed…our organisation in
  Germany is committed to a medium term
  transition to chlorine free materials such
  as polyolefins and PET.‖
             -Gisbert Schlemmer, GHK, 1994

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• International Association of Firefighters:

―Due to intrinsic hazards, we support efforts
  to identify and use alternative building
  materials that do not pose as much a risk
  as PVC to firefighters, building occupants
  or communities‖
             Richard Duffy, OHS, 1998

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• ―We support initiatives to reduce the
  harmful impact of medical waste,
  including…use of the marketplace to
  develop alternative low-toxicity products,
  eg replacing pvc plastics, latex and
             - International Council of Nurses, 1998
- See Health Care Without Harm

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      PVC-free business initiatives
                           Wavin: No. 1 PVC pipe producer in Europe

                            “Why polypropylene is the better material”

                                 “a standard plastic has been questioned
                                 increasingly in recent years due to its
                                 chlorine content: PVC”

                             “Rightly, polypropylene is called the „material of
                             the future‟. Because in addition to its excellent
                             characteristics, it has all the advantages for
                             ecologically clean reprocessing”

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             Car manufacturers
• Ford, Peugeot, Daimler Benz, Opel,
  Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes Benz,
  Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota all adopting
  PVC restrictions
• In USA GM and Ford requiring non pvc for
  some supply lines

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             Construction Industry

    Greenpeace database on alternatives to PVC in
    PVC Construction Products and Alternatives Explained
    Roofing and Building Membranes
    Exteriors; Siding, Cladding, Profiles & Coatings
    Windows and Doors
    Interiors; flooring
    Interiors: walls & decoration
    Electrical Equipment
    Pipelines and Accessories


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    Shoe manufacturers/Retailers
• Nike PVC phase out policy
• Leading European retailers
eg Marks & Spencers phasing out PVC,

    H&M largest retailer in Europe no longer
    uses PVC in any of their clothing or other

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                Electronics Industry
• Sony committed to PVC phase out by
Eg no PVC in all products made in Japan; 50% phase out in PVC used
   in wiring
Elimination of halogen flame retardants and the use of lead-free solder

Toshiba: circuit boards halogen free by 2000
    (halogens are toxic, persistent and/or bioaccumulative in living systems –
    have chlorine, bromine, fluorine or iodine chemicals—hence polyviny
    chloride plastic is a halogenated plastic)

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     clean compostable natural
  materials (McDonough/Braungart)

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  Biobased plastics – the new trend

• Material production now esclating with
  Cargill/Dow facility capacity of 300 million
  pounds per year PLA (polylactic acid) for
  NatureWorks fabrics and plastic
• Sony Japan – biobased plastic walkman

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             Biobased Plastics
• Raises issue of land use
• Raises issue of genetically engineered
  crops – how is crop grown?
• But this is now the trend!
• Increasing convergence of chemicals and

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             Work to eliminate PVC in:
• building materials, government
  purchasing, hospitals
• Demand labeling of all
plastics to ensure avoidance
of PVC plastic
…and don‘t buy it

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             For more information

• General PVC info visit:
• Health Care Without Harm:
• GAIA incineration network:
• Healthy Building Network:

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