Impact of lead restrictions on the recycling of PVC

The use of lead-based stabilizers in the production of PVC articles is decreasing fast. This is a result of the voluntary commitment of the PVC industry to replace lead based stabilizers before the end of 2015. On the other hand the use of lead and its compounds is also restricted by EU legislation through the RoHS Directive, the Packaging Directive and the ELV Directive. Lead and many lead-containing substances have recently been included in the REACH Candidate List, which might lead to inclusion in Annex XIV of REACH. A restriction proposal (REACH Annex XV) for lead in consumer articles which children can put in the mouth has recently been submitted for public consultation. This can result in more restrictions on the presence of lead compounds in PVC.

Legislation restricting the presence of lead in articles might have a negative impact on PVC recycling: lead-containing recycled PVC could no longer be used to produce new PVC articles.This could undermine the PVC industry’s commitment to significantly increase the volume of recycled post-consumer PVC waste and thus enhance the sustainability of the PVC chain. It would also undermine the goals of the European Commission with regard to resource efficiency.Indeed a restriction on lead in articles might result in using less recycled post-consumer PVC waste. As a result more PVC would have to be sent to landfill and incineration.