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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

25 November 2002

PVC Industry Steps up Environment Commitment

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp today launched a voluntary product stewardship commitment by the Vinyl Council of Australia to improve environmental performance in the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) industry.

The commitment will promote more environmentally friendly practices in the production, use and disposal of PVC products and chemicals used in their manufacture by moving to phase out cadmium and lead based stabilisers, and establishing a program to recycle pipe off-cuts.

The commitment also addresses the use of phthalate plasticisers; waste management; research and public reporting, with a technical steering group representing industry, Commonwealth and science to inform industry of emerging and relevant environmental issues.

“The industry has demonstrated good faith in initiating and signing the commitment, providing transparency and setting benchmarks for environmental performance. The Commonwealth will comment on the industry’s environmental performance through the Vinyl Council’s website, providing a powerful tool to encourage industry to maximise its performance,” Dr Kemp said.

The PVC industry is an important contributor to Australia’s economy, with $800 million worth of PVC products sold in Australia each year. PVC is used for a wide range of materials from the pipes used to deliver clean drinking water to 99 per cent of Australian homes, to cordial bottles.

However, there are potential environmental and health concerns in the production of PVC resin, and products and in their end-of-life disposal. Vinyl chloride monomer - the raw material from which the resin is made - can be hazardous to human health and the environment if improperly handled. The use of cadmium and lead in PVC additives - though small by comparison with other uses of these metals - needs to be minimised in order to help reduce their load on the environment.

The industry has already moved to address environmental issues involved in the processing of PVC, voluntarily removing the use of lead stabilisers in the manufacture of potable water pipe, and participating in a recycling program to grind PVC bottles into powder and made into flooring tiles and pipe fittings.

Current levels of PVC recycling are low, largely because 80 per cent of products last between 15 and 100 years, but recycling opportunities need to be explored as PVC products reach the end of their useful life.

The commitment will have an initial life of five years and will be reviewed annually. More specific targets will be established as environmental issues and mechanisms to address them are identified.

The PVC industry is also assisting the Federal Government through Environment Australia with a project examining end-of-life issues of PVC products to help inform the development of further commitments, including those relating to recycling waste PVC products.

Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia