The Vinyl Institute is reorganizing as an independent group that will promote and defend vinyl aggressively.
``There is a lot of activity and noise'' by activists, said Greg Bocchi in an interview July 9, his first since taking over as president and chief executive officer of the Arlington-based association two months ago.
``One of our major objectives is to get above that noise and promote the wide versatility and benefits of PVC and vinyl products,'' he said.
Bocchi said the need to establish a stronger identity is one of the reasons why VI a longtime affiliate of the American Chemistry Council became a stand-alone association July 1.
VI has five full-time members, all resin manufacturers, and 14 supporting members. VI will keep its membership in the plastics division of the ACC, but not ACC itself. It will retain its alliances with other vinyl-related associations.
``We want to build stronger ties with the [Chlorine Chemistry Division of ACC] and get a more open dialogue with them,'' he said.
Bocchi said VI intends to directly get in front of vinyl's detractors, rebut what the industry views as their false claims and work to halt some of the momentum such activists have built.
A proposed bill in California, for example, would ban the use of PVC packaging, and activists have convinced retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and Sears to reduce use of PVC packaging and products containing PVC such as lunch boxes, children's utensils, coolers, baby bibs, infant changing tables and shower curtains.
``It is not in the best interest of retailers to make decisions that are not based on sound science. ... There are a lot of other factors to consider and [retailers] shouldn't just quiet the protests from activists by short-term product deselection,'' Bocchi said. ``There is a war against plastics and PVC is not the end-all'' for activists. ``It is just the beginning and they will move on to other products.''
But Mike Schade, PVC campaign coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in Falls Church, Va., argued otherwise. ``It is clear the Vinyl Institute represents the views of the chemical industry and [is] clearly not thinking like retailers. American consumers do not want products that raise any eyebrow of suspicion.''
But Bocchi insists VI will get retailers to take ``a long-term view.''
``When you decide to not carry a product, you have to substitute other products, and what are the environmental footprints of those other materials? You don't want to find out that the product you have substituted is more of a problem long-term.''
A recent CHEJ report warned that PVC shower curtains pose a health risk. Bocchi said he is encouraged because some media were skeptical of the report.
``I hope we are seeing a trend to be skeptical of scare tactics by environmental activists,'' he said.
VI also intends to reinforce the benefits of vinyl to architects, designers, home builders, packagers, retailers, industry leaders, and consumers. By volume, vinyl is the third-largest plastic produced in North America. Housing and construction account for 70 percent of vinyl sales.
Bocchi did not provide details about specific initiatives the institute might undertake.
He did say the Vinyl Promotion Network will be a key part of the industry's effort to speak with one voice. The network represents resin makers, fabricators, compounders, packaging firms, siding makers, recyclers and associations.
``We see the Vinyl Institute as one stakeholder in the VPN,'' Bocchi said. ``We want others to become active stakeholders as well. We need to educate everyone to have the information they need to defend their livelihood.''
Bocchi said VI will point out that vinyl products require less energy to make than some other products, and can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
``Energy efficiency should be considered a valuable component in whatever your sustainable path is,'' he said.