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Europe’s PVC Industry Fights Back Against NGO Misinformation

Image: Alamy/agefotostock doctors in operating room
PVCMed Alliance urges policymakers and healthcare establishments to reject conclusions of error-prone paper.

The medical PVC industry is warning European policymakers and hospitals that a paper published in 2021 by an influential non-governmental organization (NGO) that encourages phasing out the use of PVCs is rife with misinformation and should not be used as a source for crafting policy.

PVCMed Alliance, aligned with the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers to raise awareness and promote informed decisions about the use of PVC in healthcare, said the NGO published a paper falsely stating that PVC cannot be recycled; that it is easily replaced by other materials; and that it contains chemicals that are detrimental to human health and the environment.

“The paper contains so many errors that we must urge European policymakers and hospitals to disregard it,” said Ole Grøndahl Hansen, PVCMed Alliance Project Manager. “Many hospitals around Europe are currently investigating how to implement circular initiatives for their plastic waste. Paradoxically, if they decide to follow the recommendations from NGOs, hospitals will do more harm than good for the environment.”

PVCMed Alliance has released a 24-page document, “Why PVC Should Remain the Preferred Material in Healthcare and Elsewhere.” Some of its key points include:

  • PVC is the most-used plastic for medical devices in Europe with a market share of approximately 30%. PVC is safe to use, versatile, recyclable, and economical.
  • A market survey shows that PVC is expected to retain its market share in the years to come and phasing it out of the healthcare industry is unrealistic.
  • Groundbreaking recycling initiatives for PVC-based medical devices are being rolled out in Europe. More than 300 hospitals worldwide collect PVC-based medical devices for recycling. To accelerate recycling, VinylPlus Med is launching a pilot program in Belgium that will be expanded throughout Europe.
  • The European PVC industry has changed dramatically since the early 1990s, when it was criticized by Greenpeace. Changes include the replacement of harmful additives, increased recycling, dramatic reductions of dioxin emissions, and a recent breakthrough in waste-treatment technology that turns hazardous residues from incineration into safe products.
  • In addition to being the most-used polymer for life-saving medical equipment, including blood bags, oxygen masks and tubing, PVC is the main plastic in building and construction. Approximately 70% of the 5.5 million tons of PVC that is produced annually in Europe goes into durable and recyclable pipes, windows, flooring, roofing, and cables.
  • Health Care Without Harm, the NGO that published “The Polyvinyl Chloride Debate: Why PVC Remains a Problematic Material,” did not base its argument on enough scientific research.

“We are interested in influencing the members of the European Parliament,” Hansen told PlasticsToday. “We have seen that European parliamentarians are receptive to the arguments put forward by NGOs. The latest example was the NGO’s success in lobbying the European Parliament not to accept a scientifically based proposal by the EU Commission to safely recycle old lead-containing PVC waste. Instead, the NGO wants to store [lead and cadmium-containing] PVC waste as nuclear waste.”

PVCMed Alliancebooklet cover from PVCMed Alliance

European legislators do not have a deep knowledge of PVC, but they have the authority to regulate the substance, he said. That’s why PVCMed Alliance took the “unusual step” of criticizing the NGO’s paper in a public forum. The stakes are high and acting on incomplete or inaccurate information could have a devastating effect on medical care and the PVC industry, said Hansen.

“We also hope to influence the local Scandinavian administrative units that are responsible for hospitals,” Hansen told PlasticsToday. “Many of these hospitals support Health Care Without Harm and its position not to recycle PVC. According to them, PVC should be phased out. Our objective is to challenge this position. We promote recycling PVC medical devices and the European PVC industry’s investment in PVC medical recycling.”

The 24-page document from the PVCMed Alliance, “Why PVC Should Remain the Preferred Material in Healthcare and Elsewhere,” is available as a free download.

PVCMed Alliance will officially launch its campaign on Jan. 14 on politico.eu and on social media platforms.

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