In a move that industry officials said they expected, the U.S. Green Building Council will revise its draft report that evaluated PVC and whether it poses negative impacts on human health or the environment.
Plastics industry officials had lauded the original report, which USGBC issued in December. That draft concluded that the impact of vinyl essentially is benign, compared with other materials.
Now the comments are in from both sides and the report will be revised. That does not necessarily mean PVC will get a bad rap in the revision, according to Keith Christman, a director of industry affairs at the Vinyl Institute in Arlington, Va.
``We're evaluating the document,'' Christman said. Essentially, Christman said in an Aug. 30 telephone interview, the document reinforces many of the conclusions from the original draft report.
``It points out that there needs to be a comprehensive approach,'' he said. ``We continue to supply information to this response.''
Based on 562 comments from building industry stakeholders, USGBC is looking for more data on PVC, including recyclability and end-of-life fate, exposures for residents near PVC manufacturing plants and the role of fires in the life cycle of PVC building materials.
``Many stakeholders have pointed out that the draft report ignored the disposal phase in the life cycle of PVC and alternative materials,'' the task group wrote in an Aug. 25 memo. ``The [task group] agrees with this point and is working to evaluate the impacts from the disposal phase for each material. Previously, we depended on [life-cycle-analysis] databases that focused only on the upstream, manufacturing impacts. For our new analysis we are looking into new databases and literature that include emissions and impacts during disposals.''
The task group is collecting information on the actual practice of disposing of post-consumer PVC at tsac-pvc.obiki.org.
According to the memo, the task group will differentiate the effects of disposal practices based on the proportion of PVC and alternative products sent to landfills, incinerated or recycled. The group said it also is looking for information on estimated waste that is burned in back yards.
The group also received suggestions on the controversial topic of granting LEED credits for avoiding the use of PVC. LEED is USGBC's rating system for green building. Supporters of those types of credits said there are known preferable alternatives to PVC for any given application.
``The [task group's] position is that, even if one assumes there are better alternatives, simply crediting the avoidance of PVC does not necessarily provide an incentive for using those better alternatives as opposed to other alternatives that might not be better,'' USGBC wrote in its report.
If the next available material is associated with higher exposure of harmful toxicants, the group reasoned, the substitution of PVC potentially can pose higher overall health and ecological impacts.
``It follows that if PVC is not consistently the worst option for its common applications, such a credit could readily become an incentive to use something worse, which would not represent positive market transformation,'' the group said in its memo.
The task group received comments from all facets of the building industry, including architects, universities and several plastics-related companies and organizations. Their comments can be viewed online at pvc.building green.com/comments.php.