I find items such as Bill Walsh's July 11 Perspective, “PVC-free agenda makes sense,” not only irritating but bordering on prevarication. Lumping all applications containing PVC into the same category just does not make good sense or common sense.
Many building products made from rigid PVC compounds do not contain suspect materials such as phthalate plasticizers. Even in phthalate-containing examples, it is not the PVC that is suspect but the phthalate-based materials, and then only the low-molecular-weight phthalic acid esters. Let's address the phthalate concern and not lump all PVC into the same category. Chemically, PVC and low-molecular-weight phthalic acid esters have very little, if anything, in common.
Recycling of anything requires a desire on the part of our society. Plastic recycling has been shown to be effective economically for some plastics, metals and glass, but has not extended itself to all possibilities yet. A commercial recycling business must fill a need that allows it to profitably exist. It is our society that has a throwaway attitude; this is not promoted by the various PVC-associated industries.
PVC building product suppliers make every attempt to reuse PVC-based materials when they are available and if it is cost-effective. Not every product can contain recycled materials, which may not be appropriate for the end use. The majority of PVC-based building products do not contain a plasticizer, so recycling plasticizer-based products into these products does not make sense.
Like any industry, the PVC industry is run by and is the livelihood of people who are hard-working, intelligent individuals with a variety of skills and abilities. They want to make a good living by making a profitable product and they do make a conscious effort to be safe and environmentally friendly. All of us need a job in order to live. None of us wants to endanger ourselves, or our children. When we encounter half-facts and misguided barbs that threaten our way of life, frustration can come out.
Has the Healthy Building Network attacked wood (mold, fire, splinters)? How about wall board? A major constituent, calcium sulfate, has been shown to contribute to hydrogen sulfide generation in anaerobic landfills. Why focus on PVC elimination? Why not focus on polyvinylidine fluoride, or nylon, or polyester or other man-made polymers?
I would suggest that Mr. Walsh and his companions address the use of phthalates in PVC and not PVC. I would also suggest that they address the issues of who pays for recycling and who convinces and shows our society how to recycle, and strongly reconsider his approach to problem solving and gathering a team to assess and implement a meaningful solution — which includes specific resolutions rather than platitudes of a general nature.
PVC is not the bad plastic. PVC is just one of many useful man-made polymers.
Although I work for an outstanding company that happens to extrude PVC-based building products, these are my personal opinions and may or may not be those of my employer.