Chicago, US - The oft-maligned polymer PVC (polyvinyl chloride) failed to make the grade in the newly released Plastics Scorecard - a guide designed by green chemistry-focused organisations to help designers, specifiers and buyers of plastic products make material choices that promote human and environmental health.
The Plastics Scorecard grades various plastics from Grade F to A+ based on their life cycle performance, taking into account grading criteria for feedstock production, petrochemical and plastics manufacturing, recycled content, product use and end of life.
The reference system, created by non-profit environmental solutions provider Clean Production Action and sustainability consulting firm Pure Strategies, was unveiled 30 Sept at Biopolymer Symposium 2009 in Chicago.
The scorecard very much favours bio-based resins made from non-food crops which are grown organically, according to the American Chemistry Council, which is critical of some of the approaches taken bythis group.
PVC's maximum attainable grade, according to the scorecard, is an F. PET's maximum attainable grade is a C-. Of the fossil fuel-based resins, only polypropylene, it seems, can be considered sustainable, per the scorecard, based primarily on the environmental merits of the monomer propylene and the ability to introduce large amounts of post-consumer recycled content. PP's maximum attainable grade is an A-.
"The Plastics Scorecard's design is guided by three core principles: sustainable feedstocks, green chemistry and closed-loop systems. The most environmentally preferred plastic products are safer to humans and the environment across their entire life cycle: from the growing or extracting of raw materials to manufacturing the plastics to using the plastic products to managing them at the end of their useful life," the scorecard said.
Arlington, Virginia-based American Chemistry Council (ACC) released a statement 1 Oct, taking issue with some of the life cycle analysis methodology used by Clean Production Action to make the scorecard.
"In contrast to the narrow approach espoused by Clean Production Action, complete life cycle analyses provide environmental impact data not only on materials but also on product manufacturing, transportation, service life, and end-of-life options as well as a thorough evaluation of the benefits of a product and comparisons with alternatives," the ACC statement said.
"Approaches which selectively omit critical aspects of a life cycle approach will inevitably lead to skewed results and poor decision making. Full life cycle comparisons allow brand owners and consumers to make informed decisions about the products and packages they prefer and avoid the unintended consequences of increasing environmental burdens."