Denmark gets tough on PVC and phthalates

The Danish Environment Ministry has presented a new strategy to clear the national environment of PVC, together with a new action plan aiming at reducing and phasing out the use of phthalates. The strategy annuls an existing voluntary agreement with industry.

“The new strategy puts and end to the voluntary approach, but not necessarily to the dialogue with industry. A broad range of instruments will be used: bans, charges, technological development, more innovation etc. International efforts will also be strengthened – for instance in relation to major pollution sources like undercoating of cars, and PVC textile printing” says Minister for Environment and Energy Svend Auken.

The PVC strategy aims both at actions to solve the waste problems caused by PVC consumed in the past, and at future consumption, ensuring that PVC can only be used in products if justified by life cycle perspectives.

The PVC strategy is based on six overall objectives:

  • Banning the use in new PVC products of additives which are harmful to health and the environment.
  • Keeping PVC waste out of waste incineration plants, where possible.
  • Finding substitutes, where possible, for PVC products which are difficult to separate from other waste in the waste flow, to avoid PVC in waste incineration plants.
  • Developing new treatment technologies to promote recycling of PVC waste.
  • Collecting and recycling recyclable PVC.
  • Discouraging recycling of PVC containing heavy metals.

The strategy defines a number of tools to reach these objectives, including: amending the Waste Order, to ensure that PVC is sorted out at the source and collected separately, and a ban on the use of lead in plastic. The Ministry of Taxation and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency have co-operated to prepare a model for collection of charges on new PVC products. Other actions are taken under the new phthalates action plan, which points out seven priority areas and a number of initiatives within specified product groups, for instance cars, floor coverings, toys etc.

“We know today that the use and disposal of PVC gives rise to a number of serious environmental problems. We also know that some of the phthalates may impair our reproductive capacity and possibly cause cancer. In the long term they also harm the aquatic environment. A ban has already been introduced against applications involving the most serious health risks, i.e. in toys and products for small children. The new phthalates action plan enables us to strengthen our efforts, to reduce and phase out the use of phthalates” says Auken.

The PVC strategy and the phthalates action plan are available on the Danish EPA homepage (danish version).

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