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THE CHLORINE CHAIN

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FAIRY-TALE

We do not participate in the study on the chlorine chain, because the objective is not the end of use of chlorine and chlorinated chemicals.

Greenpeace in the name of several environmental groups, medio 1994, on an invitation of the Environmental Minister to join an investigation on the use of chlorine, the 'chlorine chain' in The Netherlands.

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FACTS AND FIGURES

The chlorine chain

The study on the use and environmental problems of chlorine was initiated by the National Environmental Governmentplan, which says:

The chemical industry can give an important contribution how to reduce the use of chlorine as a basic raw material, or to make the use of chlorine completely controllable, so that the risks for external safety can be reduced.

When certain chlorine uses should give too much problems, following studies should look at alternatives for the elimination of these problematic chlorine uses.

For that reason a study was initiated by the Government and done by two Scientific Institutes: TNO and CML, both renomated in whole Europe, the first specialised in organochlorines, including dioxins and alikes, the second specialised in Life Cycle Analyses.
A steering group was formed by the Government, while industry and environmental groups were invited to join. The latter refused...


The results of the study on the chlorine chain.

About 99% of the chlorine chain could be mapped, from the origin via use to the end of its life cycle. The remaining 1% being mainly smaller chlorine uses (not emissions!).
The figures are 1990 based, but a comparison was made on 1993 and future uses, when all measures toward certain chlorinated products (CFK's) and emission reductions like of (EDC) will be executed.

The total chlorine input is 939,000 tonnes per year, the main streams were:
All figures are expressed in 1,000 tonnes (or kton).

The chlorine balance
Inputs at a total of 939 kton:
Production in the Netherlands:551 
Import (including chlorinated products):279 
Recycling/reuse of hydrochloric acid:100 
Other smaller inputs (incineration):
Accumulation in use:
PVC in long-term uses:144 
Others:
Export and other uses:
Export:325 
Different other uses:69 
Hydrochloric acid not recycled (of 134 kton):34 
Emissions/waste:
Salt (all to brackish or seawater):201 
other emissions to water:0.2
emissions to air:21 
solid waste: PVC:34 
solid waste: others:
solid waste: slag and ash:
Source: A balance of chlorine in the Netherlands
TNO/CML report STB/95/40-I, November 16, 1995


The amounts of emissions don't tell anything on total or relative toxicity. To make it comparable, the toxicity and amount of the chlorinated emissions were compared to the total toxicity and amount of all emissions in The Netherlands. This was done for several classes on 1990 base and after taken measures. The total chlorine use is 0.4% of total materials use. The contribution to an environmental problem should be around 0.4% to be comparable to other materials. PVC uses app. 50% of all chlorine produced in The Netherlands. The average contribution to environmental problems should be around 0.2% to be "normal". The real results were:

Relative contribution to different environmental problems
Item1990after
measures
PVC
Human toxicity: 0.80.4 0.02
Ecotoxicity:12<0.001
Acidification: 0.80.1  0.025
Ozone depletion:65 <0.05
Greenhouse effect:12 <0.05
Smog: 0.50.4 0.005
Smell: 0.10.1<0.0002
Solid waste: 0.40.4 0.2
Source: A balance of chlorine in the Netherlands
TNO/CML report STB/95/40-I, November 16, 1995.

Comments:

Human toxicity: One of the main points here is the diffuse emissions of dioxins from the past use of contaminated PCP (pentachlorophenol)).
Ecotoxicity is mainly from the use of chlorinated products in pesticides and biocides. This is quite low, because more than 80% of all pesticides and biocides contain chlorine.
Ozone depletion and greenhouse effect is near entirely the result of the emission of one product: CFK-11, mainly from the past use in rubber- and styrolfoams.
Except for landfill, where it is just average, PVC scores far better than average on all other environmental topics. So why is the environmental movement in general and Greenpeace in particular against the use of PVC?

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THE ALTERNATIVES

Except for the measures against certain chlorine products and emissions, already taken or in execution, the problems of chlorinated products are not different or worse than for non-chlorinated products.
The Environmental Minister therefore decided that no new measures will be taken against chlorine use, including the use of PVC. In fact there is more reason to use more PVC instead of the alternatives...


CONCLUSION

The use of chlorine and especially PVC gives no more environmental problems than the use of alternative products if the whole chain is taken into account. There is no reason for a ban on chlorine or the remaining chlorinated products, including PVC.

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You are at level one of the Chlorophiles pages

Created: April 6, 1996.
Last update: November 1, 1998.

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