VENICE, ITALY-While continuing to face a strong challenge from environmentalists, the use of PVC resins is expected to grow faster than the world economy for the next five years. Guillaume Bucco-Riboulat, PVC marketing manager for Solvay SA of Brussels, Belgium, said Oct. 17 he believes PVC has a bright future despite continued opposition from environmental groups.
Bucco-Riboulat spoke at the 1995 World Chemical Conference in Venice, sponsored by London-based ECMRA, the European Association for Business Research, Planning & Development in the Chemical Industry.
``In some ways, PVC has been a victim of its own success,'' Bucco-Riboulat said.
``Its versatility and consequent widespread use is one of the main reasons why it has been criticized by some environmental pressure groups,'' he said, adding that the PVC industry was slow to react to the criticism, but now is addressing it appropriately.
``The environmental concerns are related to the complete life of the product, from extraction of raw materials, through production and use, to recovery and final disposal.
``The life-cycle analysis for PVC already has been published, and shows that the eco-balance of this polymer is favorable compared with other materials,'' Bucco-Riboulat said.
Demand for PVC has grown nearly 4 percent per year since 1986, and demand has grown in all parts of the world except Eastern Europe.
Bucco-Riboulat said he believes PVC demand will continue to grow for the next five years.
``If the use of PVC per capita is relatively high in the industrialized countries-at a level close to 33 pounds per person-there is a considerable potential for development in the rest of the world,'' where consumption is limited to about 61/2 pounds per habitant, and even less than 2 1/5 pounds per person in countries such as China and India, he said.
``We estimate that the annual growth of PVC consumption during the next five years will reach 4.5 percent,'' Bucco-Riboulat said.
He said he expects the majority of that growth to be in Asian and Pacific countries, where he predicts growth of 7.2 percent per year. He predicts growth of 8.7 percent for South American countries, 9.5 percent for African and Middle Eastern countries and for Eastern European countries, growth of 5.7 percent per year.
In the United States, he said he expects demand to grow at a rate of 4-5 percent per year, slowing from the rate of 7 percent reached annually from 1992-1995.
``The success of this polymer in the United States is due to its competitiveness against traditional materials, especially for sidings - the market has more than doubled since 1986 - and windows.
``In this sector, PVC will become in 1997 the leading material used in replacement and the second material used in new constructions,'' he added.
In Western Europe, Bucco-Riboulat said he expects annual growth of 1.5 percent - just below general economic growth rates - because applications in packaging will continue to shift to other materials, such as PET for bottles.
Even with those shifts of materials, Bucco-Riboulat said he expects significant new PVC demand for pipe and rigid profile applications in Western Europe.
Acknowledging the presence at the conference of Greenpeace, Bucco-Riboulat said he does not believe the environmental movement is as active and energetic today as it was five years ago.
However, as previously reported, 140 members of the Venice chapter of Greenpeace disrupted the opening sessions of the conference by staging a sit-in and chaining themselves to conference tables and pillars in the hotel meeting rooms.
The Greenpeace activists specifically called for an end to the production of PVC, and targeted the conference to protest the pollution of the Venice Lagoon with dioxin and furans that Greenpeace said it traced to the Porto Marghera petrochemical facility owned and operated by Enichem SpA.
In addressing Greenpeace's militancy, Bucco-Riboulat said he believes the chemical industry has dealt with environmental concerns adequately by developing and promoting recycling of plastic resins, including PVC, by cleaning up its production methods and through its public relations efforts.