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Conservation News

Organic Vinyl

Government loophole leads to organic certification for vinyl and some PVC

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According to Healthy Building News, vinyl and some derivatives, including polyvinylchloride (PVC), could be the first non-agricultural products to receive the coveted “Organic” certification from the USDA.

The USDA organic labeling guidelines state that in order to receive certification, a product must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients. Lawyers for the North American Vinyl Producers Association and the Vinyl Institute will present documentation at the USDA May meeting demonstrating that vinyl is in fact composed of two simple organic building blocks: chlorine, based on common salt, and ethylene, from natural gas.

According to the article, Vinyl Association President Don B. Fulde welcomed the decision: “Our member companies have long maintained that ours is essentially a natural product — common salt combined with natural gas — which is essentially a series of carbon and hydrogen atoms, in other words, decomposed plant matter. Soon, we expect to have a label that confirms this.

There may be some fighting between government agencies. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spoken out strongly against the dangers of PVC. According to the EPA, “vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver.”

North American vinyl production has seen a serious decline in recent years due to environmental concerns. The recent downturn in the US housing market has made things worse for vinyl producers according to industry publications. But it remains one of the most widely used plastics in the world. Despite warnings, it’s still used in everything from baby toys to backpacks, PFDs, and food storage wraps and containers.

However, not all PVC items will receive organic certification. The biggest danger of PVC is the phthalates that give different iterations of the plastic its elasticity. If PVC contains more than five percent phthalates, it will not be eligible.

Vinyl and PVC manufacturers will leverage their organic certification in the marketplace, which will undoubtedly contribute to consumer confusion and contribute to widespread greenwashing, a trend that many groups from the outdoor industry to producers of health and wellness as well as natural foods products have been fighting for years. It’s expected that natural products industries trade associations will respond to this with strong lobbying efforts.

A representative from the US Naugahyde Manufacturers Association said that he expects Naugahyde to be amongst the first products approved.

Healthy Building News