Plastics, especially PVC, frequently find themselves at the center of environmental discussions. Given PVC's controversial reputation, it's understandable that NGOs and other stakeholders often voice their concerns and opinions about this widely used material.

In response to the latest papers and critiques from NGOs on PVC, the PVCMed Alliance has proactively undertaken the task of providing an updated perspective on PVC, grounded in the most recent and relevant evidence. This critical review of the NGOs' approach to PVC aims to offer a balanced and fact-based view of PVC's role and impact.

Key points

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European Chemicals Agency Affirms Safe European PVC Production

In 2023, the European Chemicals Agency confirmed the safety of PVC production in Europe, stating that the risks to both workers and environment are adequately controlled under current operational conditions.
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Regulation and Safety of Plasticisers:

PVC plastic is recognised as non-toxic and inert, with strict regulation and industry responsibility under REACH to ensure the safety of additives, including plasticisers.
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Stringent Regulations and Safety Measures

Strict EU Occupational Exposure Limits and environmental emission limits ensure safe production of PVC in Europe. The industry has further developed voluntary policies enforced by independent bodies to minimise worker exposure and environmental emissions beyond the legal limits.
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DEHP Alternatives in Medical Devices

The European plasticiser industry has invested heavily in developing safe DEHP alternatives, subjected to extensive testing under REACH, and complying with the EU Medical Device Regulation.
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Chlor-Alkali Industry’s Vital Role

PVC is an integral part of the chlor-alkali industry, serving various critical applications such as water treatment, pharmaceuticals, and clean energy production.
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Safe PVC Disposal and Recycling

PVC waste incineration is carefully managed in Europe to prevent harmful emissions. Additionally, PVC is increasingly recycled, contributing to a circular economy in healthcare and elsewhere.
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Advancements in Chlorine Production

Europe has phased out asbestos and mercury technologies in chlorine production, adopting safe and energy- efficient membrane technology while addressing potential concerns regarding PFAS emissions.
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Complexity of Phasing Out PVC

Replacing PVC with alternative materials may introduce other additives (e.g. PFAS), potentially causing unforeseen health effects, and regretful substitutions must be considered. Substitution also poses challenges related to technical performance, life cycle impacts, supply disruptions, and increased costs.
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Energy Efficiency of PVC

Despite electricity requirements in the chlor-alkali process, PVC’s composition, with approximately 60% chlorine, results in significantly lower primary energy consumption compared to other plastics.
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DEHP-Free PVC Blood Bags

Efforts to phase out DEHP from blood bags are in progress, with promising results from non-phthalate PVC alternatives. In contrast, the development of a PVC-free blood bag remains a challenge.


Recyclable PVC to remain the most used plastic for medical devices

Almost 30% of the plastics-based medical devices are manufactured in PVC, which makes the material the most used polymer for bags, tubing, masks and other disposable medical devices. Due to the material's unique properties, this share is expected to remain the same until at least 2027.

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The European PVC industry's sustainable development journey continues

During the last two decades the production, use and waste management of PVC in Europe have undergone a significant transformation. Through VinylPlus, the European PVC industry’s Voluntary Commitment to sustainable development, problematic additives have been substituted, recycling systems have been set up and emissions from raw material production are now controlled.

VinylPlus 2030 is the next 10-year Commitment of the European PVC industry to Sustainable Development. With its renewed Commitment, VinylPlus aims to contribute proactively to addressing the global sustainability challenges and priorities.

The VinylPlus 2030 Commitment has been developed bottom-up through industry workshops and with an open process of stakeholder consultation. Three ‘Pathways’ and 12 ‘Action Areas’ have been identified embracing the PVC value chain’s circularity, its advancement towards carbon neutrality, minimisation of the environmental footprint of the PVC production and products, and its engagement with stakeholders and global coalitions.