WASHINGTON — The U.S. Public Interest Research Group took aim Feb. 25 at PVC, urging consumers not to buy nine products packaged in PVC because it contends the material is the least-recycled plastic and is environmentally harmful.
In presenting its Wastemaker Awards, the organization held news conferences in Washington and at least 15 states to boycott the products, from peanut butter to shampoo, and in each case pointed to alternatives packaged in the much-more-recycled PET.
A Vinyl Institute official said the group has ``created a lot of attention on a miniscule problem,'' because 65 percent of vinyl is used in making durable goods, and vinyl requires fewer nonrenewable resources than other plastics.
Vinyl also makes up only about 3 percent of the plastic bottle market, but companies that do use PVC may use it because they want the package molded to a certain shape or they need the barrier properties that vinyl offers, said Mark Sofman, manager of industry affairs for Morristown, N.J.-based VI.
PVC packaging posted a 0.9 percent recycling rate in 1996, the lowest of the seven major resins, and 2 percent for PVC bottles, according to figures from the Washington-based American Plastics Council. By comparison, 26.7 percent of PET packaging was recycled, including 12.6 percent of custom bottles.
PIRG officials also said studies have found that the carcinogen dioxin is released when PVC is produced and incinerated, and that PVC in the waste stream contributes significantly to dioxin released from trash incinerators.
VI officials, however, said the operation of incinerators is the key to controlling dioxin emissions. Dioxin in the environment has declined for 25 years, even as vinyl production has tripled, Sofman said.
U.S. PIRG spokeswoman Kimberly Larson said: ``Given these hazards — known and potential — and the fact that safer alternatives already exist, refusing to buy PVC packaging is a no-brainer for consumers. We urge manufacturers of these products to follow suit and use less-harmful packaging.''
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who gave the awards with PIRG, said, ``PVC is a serious threat to the environment, and its use is hurting the cause of plastics recycling.''
Washington-based U.S. PIRG gave its Wastemaker Awards to the following products packaged in PVC:
Planters Peanut Oil, Nabisco Foods in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Windex Window Spray, S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. in Racine, Wis.
Reach Act Mouth Wash, Johnson & Johnson's McNeil-PPC Inc. unit in Skillman, N.J.
Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer, GoJo Industries in Akron, Ohio.
DEP Styling Gel from DEP Corp. in Los Angeles.
Peter Pan Smart Choice peanut butter from Hunt Wesson Inc. in Fullerton, Calif.
Diamond Bay Tanning Spray, SPF 4 from Suncare Products in Westport, Mass.
Old English Wood Oil, Reckitt & Coleman Inc. of Montvale, N.J.
Snapple Drinks in Valley Stream, N.Y., for using PVC shrink wrap.
The group chose the items because they are major brands, Larson said. It also urged consumers not to use PVC shrink wrap.