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Sustainability, Science-based Decision Making, and Other Takeaways from Vinyl360

Nov 2017

Executives from across the vinyl value chain gathered recently for a conference featuring global trends and targeted insights. The highlight of Vinyl360 was a conversation about the North American vinyl industry’s sustainable path forward.

At this year’s conference, participants received an exclusive first look at the results of the industry-wide materiality analysis. This formative research provides an overall snapshot of how the industry is doing in the environmental, social, and economy spheres—and where we can do better. Vinyl industry insiders discussed the research and its implications, and began to formulate next steps for addressing key hotspots.

Here are four more takeaways from Vinyl360.

China is a “wildcard” when it comes to PVC production.

Chuck Carr, global business director of inorganics, chemical market services, IHS Markit, talked about how China is going through an environmental clean-up akin to what American manufacturers faced in the 1970s. He said that tightening down on industrial pollution, coupled with a historic reliance on mercury-based production, suggests that the demand for North American vinyl could increase across Asia.

In particular, Carr said that pollution reduction in China is “the wildcard for PVC’s outlook.” Carr told Vinyl360 participants that “manufacturing site inspections commenced in early 2016, [and] there have been [Chinese] plants that have been closed. If they don't have proper government permits, they're being closed. Plants that are located within cities that aren't meeting these air levels are being asked or told to basically move to industrial sites. They're basically shutting them down.”

The EPA wants to be more responsive to its customers.

Henry Darwin, chief of operations, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), discussed the Trump Administration’s efforts to make the agency more responsive to manufacturers and others whose business interests are dependent on regulatory certainty. One key is reducing the regulatory burden on businesses by streamlining the process and tracking the permitting progress. Another: science-based decision making. Darwin told Vinyl360 participants that the EPA has a strategic measure around that and is “continuing to have discussions about how we make sure the decisions we’re making are based on sound science.”

Scientists need to be scientific.

Keeping on the theme of science-based decision making, Patrick Moore, author of Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist, talked about the importance of chlorine to public health. Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace, and he broke with the organization over its campaign to ban chlorine. Moore told participants that adding chlorine to drinking water was “the biggest advance in the history of public health.” He also discussed the use of vinyl in healthcare, saying that it is “the most important material for healthcare, along with medicines.”

Health and safety remain top priorities.

Finally, the vinyl industry announced the recipients of its annual safety and environmental awards. These are given to companies in the vinyl industry for improving worker safety and protecting the environment at plant sites throughout the United States and Canada. Overall 43 facilities were awarded for their outstanding performance. Twenty-seven (27) plants received safety performance awards; six (6) received safety excellence awards for five or more consecutive years without an OSHA recordable incident; (8) received environmental excellence awards based on outstanding track record of performance for five or more consecutive years under EPA’s NESHAPs, and other environmental permit requirements, and two (2) received environmental honor awards. These awards recognize facility performance during the 2016 calendar year based upon federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable incidents, the EPA’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), other regulatory permit performance, and the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory data for air and water.