Environmental Impacts of PVC not excessive compared to alternatives

Although polyvinyl chloride (PVC) does affect the environment, the effects are not excessive when compared to those of commonly used alternatives, according to a new report commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).

The DETR is seeking comment from interested parties on the study, which consisted of an assessment of the environmental impact of PVC and its alternatives – such as linoleum, aluminium and wood – throughout their life-cycles, and economic analysis, and is designed to be part of the current debate on PVC (see related story).

According to the consultation document, the more considerable risks associated with PVC are in the production phase, rather than at the end of its life. The paper suggests that it is a reasonable assumption that as such risks typically fall within regulatory frameworks, production phase risks will be reflected in the price of the product.

The paper recommends that decisions regarding PVC policy should consider a broad range of issues, including environmental performance of both PVC and its alternatives, impact on employment, availability of suitable alternatives, and the willingness of individuals to pay for such alternatives. Policymakers also have to take into account that public opinion may be political in nature, rather than being based on scientific or economic evidence.

“The study took the unique approach of combining life cycle assessment with risk assessment and an economic analysis, and the results are a positive contribution to the long running debate on PVC,” said Environment Minister, Michael Meacher. “We are now seeking comments from all stakeholders on the results and the approach taken.”

“I am pleased that the PVC industry already has a voluntary commitment setting out a programme of precautionary measures to address potential risks and encourage industry to meet the challenge of sustainable development,” said Meacher. “We are now looking for responses to today’s report to encourage a faster move towards a sustainable PVC industry.”

Copies of the document, Life Cycle Assessment of Polyvinyl Chloride and Alternatives: Summary report, are available from on the DETR’s website, or from Rehan Haider, DETR, 3/F6 Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DE, telephone number: 020 7944 5867. Comments on the study should be sent to the same address by 10 June 2001.

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