Europe's PVC industry, including suppliers and processors, has pledged to spend up to 250 million euros ($230 million) on environmental improvements in the next 10 years. Industry officials insisted the plan was voluntary and not the result of any legislative pressure. But Greenpeace officials noted that it came on the heels of three European Commission reports on PVC waste disposal, which Greenpeace characterized as being critical of PVC.
The new program, dubbed Voluntary Commitment, was unveiled May 26. Four Brussels, Belgium-based regional associations announced the project: the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers; the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates; the European Stabilisers Producers Association; and the European Plastics Converters (EuPC).
The groups plan to invest in a series of projects covering each stage of the PVC life cycle, from production through end-of-life and recycling.
"The four organizations are working proactively and because of that, the committee was formed with a role to decide which projects to support," said Thierry Decugniere, issues manager for ECVM.
A committee of representatives from each association will oversee their progress. The group has presented the proposal to the European Commission's directorate general for enterprise and environment.
Decugniere denied that the effort is simply reacting to initiatives being proposed by the European Commission. Rather, he said industry is putting forward positive proposals to improve PVC and its environmental aspects.
"The agreement ... guarantees accountability and openness, with progress against the Voluntary Commitment evaluated by an independent third party and communicated in an annual progress report," the partners said in a news release.
The management committee still is considering different projects that it might find suitable for backing and promoting.
One example is a project ECVM has taken up: construction of a 5.5 million-pound-per-year PVC feedstock recycling pilot plant at Solvay SA's polymer site in Tavaux, France, Decugniere said.
PVC manufacturers also are embarking on projects to reduce emissions, phase out cadmium stabilizers, and reduce use of lead stabilizers, according to Decugniere.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, said the industry pledge is just an attempt to deflect criticism from the European Commission.
"The industry finds itself with its back against the wall," said Axel Signhofen, a Greenpeace's lobbyist.
While industry and Greenpeace officials disagree on the findings of the European Commission waste study, the PVC industry is facing ongoing pressure in Europe on the issue of phthalates in baby toys.
In May, some members of the European Parliament called for EC to strengthen its anti-phthalate stance, including making permanent a 3-month emergency ban on six phthalates in PVC teethers.