The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group launched an effort April 30 to get grocery stores to phase out PVC packaging, and said it hopes to find a local food store to pilot the effort.
MassPIRG officials said if their effort succeeds, their national parent, USPIRG, wants to expand the effort against PVC, which MassPIRG links with carcinogenic effects and dioxin production.
But officials with the Vinyl Institute in Morristown, N.J., said MassPIRG's claims amount to ``trade libel'' because PVC is an inert polymer and the Food and Drug Administration has approved using PVC in food-contact applications.
``Quite frankly, I think the public interest research groups ought to find something else to do than carry water for the industry's other opponents,'' said Mark Sofman, VI manager of industry affairs.
MassPIRG's report said PVC is less than 5 percent of all plastic packaging, but the organization's solid waste program advocate, Jodi Segal, said it is being targeted because MassPIRG considers it a toxin and because Massachusetts incinerates half its garbage.
The group claims carcinogens and endocrine disrupters migrate from PVC, and cited the ``carcinogeneity of PVC and vinyl chloride monomer,'' acid rain problems arising from incineration of chloride compounds; PVC's ``role as a contaminant undermining'' PET recycling; and the ``possible link between dioxin generation and PVC disposal and manufacture.''
VI officials said PVC is not a carcinogen, and they said the industry acknowledged 20 years ago that VCM is a carcinogen and changed its manufacturing processes. Dioxin in the environment also has declined in the past 25 years, VI said.
MassPIRG wrote letters to grocery stores in late April but has not had any response yet, Segal said. The environmental group also contacted product manufacturers, and found some moving away from PVC but others that continue to use it, she said.
The MassPIRG report came as Greenpeace took a separate swipe at PVC, issuing a report April 24 detailing how PVC ``cannot be recycled in an economically viable manner.''
The report looked at PVC recycling around the world, and said the industry is lobbying for incineration and landfilling instead of recycling.
The Greenpeace report comes several weeks after the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers criticized the PVC industry for not supporting recycling. Vinyl industry officials said they are continuing to work on the problem.