By a vote of 394 votes in favour, 241 against and 13 abstentions, the plenary session of the European Parliament (EP) on 12 February 2020 voted to uphold its environment (ENVI) committees decision to block the European Commissions amended rules for lead concentration in PVC products. The committees proposal had already generated a backlash from European plastics converters and this week drew more criticism from the industrys vinyl interest groups see Plasteurope.com of 30.01.2020
Under the commissions plans, 0.1% lead would have been tolerated in PVC, but higher thresholds would have been allowed for recycled PVC products (2% in rigid PVC and 1% in flexible PVC). The plenary session agreed with ENVI that the proposal goes against the main principle of REACH, to protect human health and the environment, as lead, even in low doses can seriously affect health, including irreversible neurological damage.
In contrast, VinylPlus (Brussels / Belgium; www.vinylplus.eu
), the European PVC industrys sustainable development programme, sees the vote as contradicting the outcome of the rigorous scientific evaluation carried out over the last five years by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA, Helsinki / Finland; www.echa.europa.eu
). This, it said, concluded that continued recycling is currently the best waste management option for PVC wastes containing such additives.
While the ENVI committee stressed that alternatives solutions are available, but without being specific, VinylPlus in a statement pointed to the absence of alternatives in the sense of the European circular economy. The logic of the EP vote is that many end-of-life PVC articles from long-life applications will have to be disposed of by incineration or landfill, said the organisations managing director, Brigitte Dero, thus leading to a much higher environmental burden for the next generations and also delaying the restriction on European imports of PVC articles containing lead. The ensuing legislative uncertainty jeopardises investment in recycling technology and endangers the recycling targets of the European Circular Plastics Alliance, she added.
In another comment, Alexandre Dangis, managing director of the European Plastics Converters Association (EuPC, Brussels; www.plasticsconverters.eu
) also emphasised that the vote disregards ECHAs assessment of the dangers associated with lead in PVC, which he said had resulted in a balanced decision earlier by the commission and the member states. Together with the restrictions on imports, the EPs decision will create an uneven playing field for the European industry, the converters association believes.
With its original proposal now blocked, the EU commission will now be obliged to submit an amended draft to parliament or present a new proposal. The extent of the damage will now depend on the commissions handling of the matter, Dangis said.