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Greenpeace on PVC


The environmental pressure group Greenpeace have called PVC the 'poison plastic.' The table summarises their objections to its production and use.

Many of Greenpeace's claims are denied by the PVC manufacturers. They say that the evidence proves it is a safe product and have also made a commitment to making PVC sustainable.


Greenpeace claims

PVC industry response

PVC production

  • Transport of toxic and explosive chemicals.

  • Results in poisonous wastes containing dioxins and that these can contaminate the environment.

  • Additives to the PVC include plasticisers and heavy metals that are toxic.

  • Transport is safe and there is a low risk of accidents.

  • Dioxins are produced in many other processes. A UK Government report concluded that dioxins due to PVC manufacture were 'very small'.

  • Plasticisers can cause cancers in animal experiments but the doses that they require are at levels many times higher than any exposure to humans.

  • Plasticisers are not present in rigid PVC such as bottles, food packaging, window frames, water pipes.

Use of PVC

  • Plasticisers can leach out of the PVC. One plasticiser, called DEHP, is a phthalate that is a suspected carcinogen.

  • Children's toys and medical devices made out of PVC could expose people to plasticisers.

  • Alternatives to PVC are available and should be used.

  • Evidence over 40 years of use does not support that PVC is dangerous.

  • There are great benefits to using PVC in things such as blood bags, medical tubing and operating theatre floors.

  • Alternatives to PVC may not have the same range of physical properties. The safety of alternatives should also be considered.

Disposal of PVC

  • Incineration of PVC can release toxic gases and dioxins into the atmosphere.

  • In landfill, PVC takes many years to break down and can eventually release plasticisers and additives into the ground.

  • Recycling is not feasible as the PVC produced by this method is not of a high enough quality.

  • Research has shown that the presence of PVC in municipal waste that is incinerated has little effect on the level of dioxin produced. It can be cleanly and safely disposed of in modern incinerators.

  • PVC is being increasingly recycled and it can be used to replace newly-made PVC in many applications. It does not give inferior products.