Greenpeace leaflet 'Chlorine is everywhere' (in Dutch) - summer 1994.
Except if you think that chlorine is created by the devil himself (see Greenpeace and chlorine), there is no reason to assume that chlorine-free materials are better for the environment by definition. That depends on the height of emissions, the kind of emissions, the amount of (toxic) waste, the energy use and use of exhausting raw materials during manufacturing, use and deposit.
To make some comparisons possible, a so called 'Life Cycle Analysis' (LCA) can be made, which compares different materials, or methods (e.g. reuse against recycling), for the same purpose on a lot of environmental impacts like air- and waterpollution, energy use, waste management, etc... Although this method is still under continuous progress of refinement and not yet ideal, if properly carried out, it is the only method where you can compare materials in a scientific way on environmental impact. In general, these LCA's carried out by scientific institutes and followed by a group composed of government, industry and environmentalists gives the best balanced outcome.
In ALL well balanced LCA's, PVC comes out as the material with the lowest use of energy and exhausting raw materials compared with other plastics (good for sustainable development we think) and one of the least polluting, far better than a lot of 'classic' alternatives. See Life Cycle Analyses of PVC and alternatives.
As we have mentioned already in Chlorine and risk, the risk for workers and people living near chlorine and PVC-factories or -transport is not higher than for other human activities, on the contrary. As we have mentioned in Chlorine and cancer, The cancerogenity of the emissions of a large chlorine and PVC-factory is less than what one truck emits as soot and the amount of dioxins emitted are equal to what one (Greenpeace-)ship emits during working hours. And the total amount of dioxins released by the production, use, recycling, deposit and accidental fires of PVC is lower than for equivalent uses of wood, steel, glass, aluminium, copper, lead, etc..., etc... And the amount of dioxins emitted by municipal incinerators has nothing to do with the amount of chlorine or PVC incinerated, but is only a matter of quality of the incinerator. See Sources of dioxins.
With all this information, we don't see any obvious environmental reason for any exchange to other materials. If Greenpeace insists on an exchange, then that is only based on anti-chlorine hate or with other words: fundamentalism.
Under pressure of Greenpeace, other environmental groups and 'green' parties or politicians, measures were taken in several European towns, states and countries against the use of PVC. In not one case this was based on science. On the contrary, when the same governments asked for a scientific assesment of the use of PVC and alternatives, this turned always out in favor of PVC.
In the Netherlands, PVC was (voluntary) restricted for use in packing, because of the fear for more dioxins when burned in incinerators. After thorough research, this was found not to be right and the restriction is lifted now.
In Belgium there was an ecotax voted on PVC bottles for mineral water. After two years of investigation, the scientific analyses of PVC, PET and glass bottles didn't give any reason to exclude one of these materials on environmental grounds, so the ecotax is withdrawn now.
A yearslong study of the German Enquete-Kommission of the Bundestag (the German parliament) revealed, that there was no reason to exchange PVC for alternatives, '...an exchange of PVC by other materials is not recommended. That gives the danger of a shift of problems, even a possible worse situation'. A lot of towns and states in Germany are reducing or omitting their anti-PVC-statements now.
At this moment Greenpeace launches heavy anti-PVC campaigns in Sweden, Denmark and Spain, where they are supported by 'green' politicians, against all scientific evidence, including the many governmental conducted scientific reports of a lot of countries. In Sweden there was a meeting between industry, scientists, politicians and Greenpeace about the future of PVC. All scientists present, including those of the Swedish EPA, refuted a ban on PVC. Only the environmental minister stands behind Greenpeace...
Of course the actions of Greenpeace will do damage to the image of PVC. Of course that will cost market shares and employment. But for what? Who will pay the damage? Who takes the responsability?
There is no reason to exchange PVC for chlorine-free alternatives, if that has no benefit for the environment. In almost all cases, well-balanced LCA's demonstrate that PVC is one of the least polluting materials for any application. So there is more reason to exchange alternatives for PVC!
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Created: March 10, 1996.
Last update: May 2, 1998.
Home Page of the Chlorophiles
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