Sears Holding Corp. - which operates some 3,800 Kmart and Sears stores - has joined big-box retailers Target and Wal-Mart in pledging to reduce the amount of PVC in their packaging and merchandise.
But, unlike the policies of Wal-Mart and Target that make specific promises, the Sears initiative, announced Dec. 12, is more general in nature. The company said it will work to ``identify safer, more sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to PVC and incorporate them into the design and manufacturing process for private-label merchandise and packaging.''
Sears also said it will encourage vendors to reduce or eliminate PVC in merchandise and packaging. Sears will ``show preference for PVC-free materials that do not contain highly hazardous chemicals and [will] set a long-term goal of sourcing bio-based polymers that are sustainably sourced, have higher recycled content, and can be reused, recycled or composted.''
The Falls Church, Va.-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice fronted a national campaign over the past two years to secure commitments from retailers to reduce PVC.
``We welcome and applaud Sears Holdings' new PVC phase-out policy,'' said CHEJ PVC campaign coordinator Mike Schade in a statement. ``We look forward to working with the company to develop a plan to fully implement it.''
The Sears initiative did not set any specific time frames or list any accomplishments to date, in contrast to Target's Oct. 17 announcement. In its statement, Target touted that its branded children's utensils, lunch boxes and coolers are PVC-free. By January, it said, its branded children's bibs will be PVC-free, and infant changing tables that are Target brands will be made from a nonphthalate PVC alternative.
Target also said that by next spring, 96 percent of its branded place mats and table linens, and 88 percent of its branded shower curtains and liners, will be PVC-free.
``We are disappointed,'' said Allen Blakey, director of public affairs for the Vinyl Institute in Arlington, Va. ``It is not clear to us what Sears' concerns are.''
Blakey said the industry ``has to do a better job of educating companies.''
``The fact is that PVC is as safe and as effective as it has always been. We have to provide more third-party-sourced information to the decision makers in these companies.''
VI said it will begin a campaign to inform the public about PVC in January.
``We need to do a better job of publicly showing the proof of PVC's safety, energy efficiency and other benefits,'' VI President Tim Burns said in a news release. ``Some companies are being pressured and misled into having doubts about PVC. We believe retailers and consumers have a right to the facts to better equip them to resist misinformation.''
Legislative initiatives to ban some PVC products also have begun to emerge. In October, California banned the use of certain phthalates, a plasticizer used to soften PVC, in products intended for children under 3. The prohibition will take effect in January 2009. The European Union has banned phthalates in mouthing toys that are 2 inches or less on each side. A pending ban in San Francisco has been challenged in court.