Monday, April 15, 2019 — Since the publication of The New Plastics Economy in January 2017 until the most recent “Le Pacte National sur les Emballages Plastiques” in February 2019, PVC Packaging has been referred to as an “uncommon plastic”, being at the origin of “problematic” waste. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation perception of PVC ignores unfortunately the important contribution of PVC packaging in the European medical and food sectors.
“There is no doubt about the good performance that makes PVC the preferred polymer in some specific product applications where hygiene, safety or extended shelf life are essential requirements. Despite all the advantages offered by the high performance of PVC, its use in packaging is proposed to be restricted in favour of other plastics, for which some collection and sorting systems are in place, and which therefore are considered recyclable”, states Roberto Bozzi, VFSE President.
The mechanical recycling of PVC cling film is feasible with the existing waste management systems, although much remains to be done in the treatment of post-consumer waste to increase the collection and sorting. While this is tackled by municipalities and local authorities, VinylPlus® and the VFSE members develop in addition chemical recycling solutions that can treat PVC packaging, including cling film in household waste.
We would like also emphasize that the prevention of food waste has been overlooked by the current approach of the circular economy for plastic packaging. Food waste in EU-28 is estimated at 88 million tonnes, a 20% waste of the total food produced, with all the social and economic damage that it entails. In addition, the amount of resources (water, energy, etc.) needed to produce food is much higher than the production of their plastic packaging.
In view of the above, we conclude that:
Sustainable consumption must go hand in hand with the appropriate use of packaging to ensure safety and to reduce food waste. PVC containers meet these two conditions hence we call for support in the development of adequate collection systems that allow the recycling of such PVC packaging.
Recommendation to restrict the use of PVC packaging while ignoring its high performance is unjustified and fraught with consequences. In the short term, it can have a major impact on the choices made by brand owners and retailers who will take decisions without any appropriate analysis of the complete life cycle of the packed product they sell. This will result in an automatic increase of food waste, costs and uses of resources, among others.
VFSE is willing to open up a dialogue with all interested stakeholders as there is an urgency to clearly take into consideration the benefits PVC packaging does offer and which largely outweigh the issues linked to their currently limited collection and recycling.
Vinyl Films & Sheets Europe (VFSE) was formed in 2016 by the merger of three organizations: EATS (European Automotive Trim Suppliers), EDEFA (European Decorative Foils Association) and EPFMA (European PVC Films Manufacturers Association). The mission of VFSE is to represent and defend the interests of the European suppliers of plastics sheets and foils by carrying out scientific and economic studies and initiating common action concerning environment and recycling issues.