Targets met for phasing out heavy metals and for recycling PVC

30 Mar Targets met for phasing out heavy metals and for recycling PVC

The Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA) has released the findings of its second annual Product Stewardship Programme (PSP) survey for the period 1 June 2013 to 31 May 2014, which revealed that targets are being met for the phasing out of heavy metals and for the recycling of PVC.

According to SAVA’s CEO, Delanie Bezuidenhout, this survey focused specifically on the levels of compliance of member companies with regard to the phasing out of heavy metals during the production process, as well as the recycling of PVC products by these companies.

“One of the major objectives the local PVC industry had to meet this past year was the phasing out of hazardous heavy metals and potentially dangerous compounds from the PVC production process, including mercury, lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, Chlorinated Paraffins (CP), EDC and VCM, Bisphenol A and DEHP,” she says. “SAVA believes that raw material suppliers, product manufacturers, product distributors and consumers are joint stewards for the responsible and sustainable production, use and disposal of PVC products. Upon endorsing a key commitment, our members and voluntary signatories of the PSP are bound to an open-disclosure commitment and are required to supply general data related to a specific commitment to an independent auditor.”

Signatories to the programme were required to participate in the survey and show evidence of meeting the PSP key commitments. 32 companies and one industry association (The South African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association – SAPPMA) were interviewed for the survey. Although the participation rate for the 2013/4 survey period (77 %) was lower than for the previous survey, SAVA feels confident that the results still provide an accurate reflection of the state of the industry.

The majority of the respondents in the 2013/4 survey were convertors, followed by additive manufacturers, additive importers, product importers and compounders:

flooring products graph

Progress made with the phasing out of hazardous heavy metals and dangerous compounds

The latest PSP survey has shown a high level of compliance by SAVA member companies who completed the questionnaire. Each additive had its own key commitment from signatories, as well as different compliance dates. SAVA’s survey highlighted progress made with regard to the reduction in the amounts of additives imported and/or used and the levels of compliance. Where signatories were found to be non-compliant, SAVA will continue to engage with these companies and commit them to a prompt phase-out date.

Recycling of PVC products in SA

The promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act, 2014? has placed recycling and the reduction of materials to landfill high on the agenda for the local PVC industry. According to Delanie, the new Waste Act provides for the determination of waste management charges and their review, as well as for the collection of these charges through the national fiscal system. “It also makes provision for the establishment of a Waste Management Bureau within the structures of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA),” she explains. “The main purpose of the Waste Management Bureau will be to process, monitor and evaluate any Industry Waste Management Plans submitted to DEA.”

 It is SAVA’s view that the outlined legislation either holds an opportunity for the local PVC industry to proactively submit and bring into effect its own Industry Waste Management Plan (IndWMP) or it could potentially hold a risk should the industry decide to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach.

Highlights of the most PVC recycling successes in South Africa include:

  • A total of 18 488 tons of PVC was diverted from landfill in 2014. This is an increase of 3,9% from 2013.
  • A total of 6 052 tons of PVC-U was recycled in 2014 – more than double the recycling target set by the PSP.
  • A total of 12 436 tons of PVC-P was recycled in 2014, and increase of 1 809 tons from 2013, but still 17% short of the recycling target of 15 000 tons per annum set by the PSP.

“When it comes to legislation and regulations, companies tend to underestimate the cost of non-compliance, which, within the framework of the NPSWM, could be dealt with by the implementation of a government-managed tax similar to the plastic bag levy which we are all too familiar with,” says Delanie. “Product manufacturers need to understand the true costs of failure, assess the business implications, and adopt long-term strategies to avoid these costs.”

SAVA recognises that they are faced with some challenges that need to be addressed prior to the next survey period. They need to achieve a high level of participation by PSP signatories, ensure that the PSP is sufficiently funded, maintain external stakeholder engagement, increase signatories to the PSP to ensure better representation of the PVC industry, ensure that current commitments are measurable and practical to monitor, and overcome possible resistance by signatories to participate in the auditing process.

“SAVA will continue to combine the principles of shared responsibility, lifecycle thinking, awareness, innovation and supply chain communications to achieve the key commitments of the SAVA PSP,” Delanie concludes. “We remain committed to the PSP process as part of our total commitment to the sustainability of the Southern African PVC industry. Whether we are looking at new recycling initiatives, or pushing for compliance to meet the deadlines set out for the phasing out of heavy metals in the production process, we believe that taking a proactive approach is the key to success and avoiding costs in the current regulatory environment. We will continue to invest in a long-term approach on both these issues, as the costs of being unprepared are simply too high”.

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