Source: 'Nature and Environment' (Dutch), November 1988.
Any product can be replaced by alternatives. But if they are less polluting, that is another question. In the following page, some complete Life Cycle Analyses, which were made by governments or companies not involved in the chlorine/PVC discussion, are shown. They all give as result that PVC is one of the least polluting materials, comparable with other plastics and far better than a lot of traditional materials.
In Norway the Ministry of Environmental Protection asked for a phase out of PVC in all packaging and to look at the drawbacks of PVC and alternatives in long-life applications. This question was going to the SEM, the Coordinating Council for Packaging and the Environment. The council was composed of:
The results of the investigation of the SEM are condensed in the following table:
Comparison of emissions of PVC in juice bottles, vinegar bottles and margarine tubs with resp. PET, glass and laminate.
|Comparison of juice and vinegar bottles and margarine tubs|
|Type of pollution||PVC||PET||glass||lamin.|
|organic toxic emiss.||ratio:||1.0||1.2||0.3||0.8|
|inorg. toxic emiss.||ratio:||1.0||0.0||80.0||0.0|
|amount of waste||ratio:||1.0||0.8||3.4||1.4|
|non-renewable raw materials||ratio:||1.0||3.1||1.7||3.1|
|classification: 1 = best ... 4 = worst
All emissions are in weighted ratio to PVC, which is set to 1.
Because of these results, SEM said in their report:
SEM's analyses thus does not provide any grounds for imposing the phasing out of PVC in disposable packing. Parts of the analysis clearly indicate that PVC on the whole is a better alternative environmentally than its possible replacements.
The environmental group (NNV) agreed with the main conclusion of the report, but pointed out that ecotoxicologic effects were not taken in account. The NNV made a report on PVC and environmental hazards, mainly on the possible emissions of dioxins from PVC. This is of course one-sided, because the real emissions of dioxins from the alternatives are not at all mentioned and even not measured. See dioxin releases of materials during their life cycle.
We have not mentioned the financial aspect of the change to alternatives until now, but interestingly, the SEM did calculate, to a certain extend, what the financial consequences would be for a change-over from PVC toward alternatives. They calculated:
No need for neutralisation of hydrochloric acid when incinerating at municipal incinerators: NOK 0.65 million/year.
Investments in new packaging machines in only three factories: NOK 25 million.
Extra costs for the customers, because of more expensive materials, only for three factories: NOK 11 million/year!
Why should you pay more for alternatives, which are NOT more environmentally friendly?
In Belgium, a heavy ecotax was voted on PVC bottles, to price them out of the market. In the mean time, an investigation In Flanders, the North of Belgium was started by the local government, as a result of a years long discussion between environmentalists and producers about the environmental impact of PVC. Environmental groups (BBL - Bond Beter Leefmilieu - Allience for a better environment), industry and government settled the rules and the products to investigate. The investigation on PVC and alternatives bottles for mineral water was done by VITO, the governmental research institute.
Comparison of emissions of PVC and PET one-way bottles with glass return bottles for mineral water.
|PVC and PET one-way bottles with glass return bottles for mineral water.|
|Type of pollution||Glass1||Glass4||PET1||PET4||PVC1||PVC4|
|Use of fossile energy (MJ)||1750||2500||2500||2750||2000||2250|
|Use of inorganic raw materials (kg)||27||45||0||0||11||11|
|Use of processwater (kg)||2150||1800||400||400||500||500|
|Global warming effect (kg CO2-eq.)||170||260||180||210||120||140|
|Photochemical oxydants (g C2H4-eq.)||260||390||330||370||210||240|
|Acidification (g SO2-eq.)||1000||1650||780||950||1100||1300|
|Chemical oxygen demand (COD g)||240||200||70||70||50||50|
|Non-radioactive solid waste (kg)||18||25||14||15||14||15|
|Radioactive solid waste (g)||3.7||7.7||3.6||4.8||3.5||4.7|
|Air pollution (1000 m3 units for air)||300||500||220||250||230||260|
|Water pollution (m3 units for water)||250||250||25||25||50||50|
|Dioxin1 (ng TEQ)||0.2||0.2||3||3||3.3||3.3|
|Dioxin2 (ng TEQ)||0.2||0.2||0.02||0.02||0.02||0.02|
Glass4: 759 g, 15 returns, from France (average 700 km return)
Glass1: 759 g, 30 returns, within Belgium (average 300 km return)
PET1: 38.9 g, within Belgium (150 km one-way, 30 km to disposal)
PET4: 38.9 g, from France (350 km one-way, 30 km to disposal)
PVC1: 43.6 g, within Belgium
PVC4: 43.6 g, from France
Dioxin1: municipal waste incineration as it was in 1993
Dioxin2: nowadays, after renewal of the incinerators
A lot of other scenario's, like more recycling were investigated too, these are even more in favour of the plastic one-way bottles.
Based on this investigation, the proposed ecotax on PVC bottles in Belgium was lifted.
The results for different materials, used in gas distribution systems
|Comparison of different materials, used in gas distribution systems|
|Photochemical oxydant creation (POCP)||216||216||215|
|Aquatic Ecotoxicity (ECA)||26||6.4||3.9|
|Global warming potential (GWP)||31||22||21|
|Adicification potential (AP)||13||2.5||1.1|
|Abiotic depletion potential (ADP)||9.7||1||0.45|
|Human toxicity (HT)||14||1.9||0.76|
|Nutrification potential (NP)||2.5||0.61||0.33|
|Odour treshold limit (OTL)||11||0.39||0.48|
|Ozone depletion potential (ODP)||0.25||0.17||0.07|
|Energy content (EC in GJ)||748||303||139|
|All figures in world-normalised scores (year.10^-10).|
As a result of this investigation, the government of The Netherlands recommends now PVC for all sustainable building purposes (after years of negative publicity!)...
You are at level two of the Chlorophiles pages
Created: June 22, 1996.
Last update: April 30, 2000.
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