MEPs block Commission proposal to recycle hormone disrupting plastics

DEHP makes plastics more flexible, and was commonly used in PVC shoe soles. [Kathryn Decker/Flickr]

The European Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the Commission’s plans to allow the recycling of PVC plastics containing DEHP, a hormone disruptor banned in the EU since February 2015. Our partner Journal de l’Environnement reports

Under the European Union’s Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, more commonly known as DEHP,  has been banned in the EU since 21 February. The European Commission can still grant certain companies authorisation to use the chemical in specific circumstances.

But in a draft decision, yet to be ratified by the Council of the EU, the European Commission had planned to authorise the recycling of old plastics containing DEHP, with a view to using them in the production of things like shoes or floor coverings. For the European Parliament, this was unacceptable.

MEPs adopted a resolution asking the Commission to withdraw the plans last Wednesday (25 November). Submitted by Pavel Poc (Czech Republic, S&D), Kate?ina Kone?ná (Czech Republic, GUE/NGL) and Bas Eickhout (Netherlands, Greens), the resolution passed by 603 votes to 86, with five abstentions.

DEHP and male infertility

According to the resolution, “It is not acceptable to tolerate potentially numerous cases of male infertility simply to allow soft PVC recyclers and downstream users to save costs in the production of low-value articles so as to compete with low-quality imports.”

For the MEPs, the producers that had asked for specific authorisation to use the chemical had failed to provide adequate assurances that they would protect their workers from its health risks, or that the potential socio-economic benefits of the recycling would outweigh these risks.

It is now up to the Council of the EU to decide on the Commission’s plan. Without the backing of a qualified majority, the decision will be sent back to the Commission. 

Stéphane Content, the general manager of the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI), said, "ECPI respects the right of the European Parliament to oversee an implementing measures but it is essential to underline that the Commission has been strictly adhering to its mandate under REACH. This is a highly complex and technical process based on thorough scientific and socio-economic impact assessments."

"We call on the European Commission to respect the scientific conclusions of both RAC and SEAC. We hope for a positive confirmation to be finally given to the Authorisation for the continued recycling of soft PVC containing DEHP to produce PVC articles and the formulation of recycled soft PVC containing DEHP in compounds and dry-blends."

"PVC can be recycled without loss of performance and with risk control for human health and the environment. The alternatives to recycling are incineration, landfilling and export outside the EU leading to an outright loss of valuable materials for the EU economy. PVC recycling enhances resources efficiency, reduces emissions and brings environmental benefits."

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