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PVC a Hazardous Waste? EPA’s Tentative Response to Petition

Friday, February 10, 2023

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Image by BrianNorcross

Every year, millions of tons of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are used in construction projects, packaging, and other applications across the country. PVC is one of the most commonly used plastic polymers due to its unique properties, which make it durable and affordable; these same properties also make it one of the least recycled. What if all PVC waste had to be treated as hazardous waste?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tentatively declined, as of January 12th, to rule discarded PVC as “hazardous waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This ruling comes in response to a petition submitted in 2014 from the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group, that claimed discarded PVC presents “a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment.” EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Barry N. Breen released a summary document detailing the reasons the agency is declining to make a change at this time. The document states, “The petition does not provide sufficient evidence to suggest that listing discarded PVC as a hazardous waste would have a meaningful impact, if any, on reducing exposure to phthalates, including phthalates used as plasticizers in some PVC products.” Further, Breen writes that end-of-life PVC is already regulated through landfill management under RCRA, incineration under the Clean Air Act, and general anti-dumping rules in waterway protection.

Still, the classification of discarded PVC remains a concern among industry professionals, environmentalists, government officials, and citizens alike. The EPA is soliciting public comment on their tentative denial of the petition.

The full response can be read here:

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