WASHINGTON — Dealing PVC a high-profile but low-volume setback, Nike Inc. plans to phase out its use of vinyl because of environmental concerns about its manufacture and disposal.
Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike will not withdraw PVC use immediately, but said it is in the early stages of finding alternatives. The sports manufacturing giant did not formally announce its efforts; Greenpeace disclosed Nike's intentions Aug. 25.
Small amounts of PVC are used in many Nike products, including shoe soles and logos. Nike does not know how much PVC it uses.
Nike said it made the decision not because PVC is toxic, but because its manufacture and disposal can create dioxin, which the company said has been linked to such problems as birth defects, cancer and diabetes.
The Vinyl Institute, however, said that PVC produces less than 1 percent of the dioxin emitted from man-made sources.
``We don't feel we are a significant producer of dioxin,'' said Robert Burnett, executive director of Morristown, N.J.-based VI.
Sporting goods is not a big PVC market, but the vinyl industry wants to meet with Nike to convince it to reverse course, he said.
``They have just begun to look at moving away from vinyl,'' Burnett said. ``They may find that more difficult to do from a cost or performance aspect.''
Nike spokeswoman Dawn Leonetti said it is too early to talk about alternatives but Nike is confident it will find other materials.
The ban applies to new products, and prohibits PVC used in footwear items developed after Aug. 1 and all other products developed after Dec. 1.
In a Greenpeace press release, Nike said it was not trying to divert attention from criticism of its labor practices in other countries.
The PVC phaseout is part of an effort started in 1993 to develop completely sustainable products, Leonetti said. As part of that, Nike identified chemicals it wants to stop using, she said. Nike used Greenpeace and chemical industry information and hired consulting firms to make the decision, she said.
Nike's new European headquarters is being built with PVC alternatives wherever possible, the statement said.