Impact assessment for the possible restriction of lead in products on PVC recycling

Because of the hazardous properties of lead, the use of lead in consumer products is constantly being reduced on a European scale. Lead can often be replaced with other components with less or no hazardous properties at all, therefore the regulation of lead is becoming more and more stringent. VinylPlus has commissioned Tauw to make an impact assessment of the possible restrictions of lead in consumer products.

Stringent regulation

Stringent regulation aimed at the protection of human health could have an inadvertently effect: Recycling of materials already containing lead could be severely hampered, whereas recycling is a spear point in European environmental policy.

One of the materials where this might be an issues is PVC. This plastic can be stabilized with lead in order to make it resistant to high temperatures and UV radiation. The European PVC industry has taken on a commitment to phase out intentionally added lead stabilizer by the end of 2015. Because of the long lifespan of PVC products the PVC waste arising nowadays might contain lead. Recycling of the PVC waste will bring lead in new products.

Tauw’s role

VinylPlus has commissioned Tauw to make an impact assessment of the possible restrictions of lead in consumer products. The assessment looked at the possible regulations and the effect these regulations might have on

• Gross value added
• Loss or increase of jobs
• Effect on the human health as a result of exposure to lead
• Greenhouse gas emissions
• Primary energy consumption
• Raw materials consumption
• Distribution over waste disposal options.

Input for the calculation of these variables was collected through literature study and interviews with experts in the PVC production and recycling industry.

Conclusion

The study shows that a total ban of lead in new products would result in a collapse of PVC recycling in Europe. This will lead to loss of jobs, and added value, as well as make a negative impact on the environment, while human health isn’t affected because of recycled materials. Making an exemption for recycled materials in building materials will negate most of the negative consequences of such regulation.

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