EPA Denies Petition to Regulate PVC As Hazardous Waste

On April 26, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its decision on the petition to regulate discarded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In its much-anticipated action, EPA denied the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) petition.  


On July 24, 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the EPA to list discarded PVC as a hazardous waste under RCRA. EPA did not respond, and CBD filed a lawsuit on August 19, 2021. EPA entered into a consent decree to review and act on the petition. Among other claims, the CBD alleged that discarded PVC products leach vinyl chloride and other chemical components into the environment as the products deteriorate with age in municipal solid waste landfills. The petition requested the EPA designate PVC that may be generated at the manufacturing stage and finished materials and products that contain PVC as hazardous waste when discarded.  


PVC is one of the most common plastics used in many applications including construction, consumer goods, point of purchase materials, banners, signs, flags, packaging, and labels. PVC is formed from the polymerization of vinyl chloride monomer and additives. Additives include stabilizers that limit degradation from sources such as oxygen, heat, light, and flame, and plasticizers that make the PVC more flexible. 


All PVC contains stabilizers. Some stabilizers contain metals such as barium, cadmium, and/or lead. Other PVC contains stabilizers based on calcium, zinc, and/or tin. PVC may contain plasticizers, with the concentration and identity of plasticizers varying widely based on the desired properties of the final material. Plasticizers can be phthalates, adipates, and trimellitates. Rigid forms of PVC contain little to no plasticizers while more flexible forms require the addition of more plasticizers. 


In the denial, EPA explained that petitioners had not provided sufficient evidence to support a listing of discarded PVC as a RCRA hazardous waste. The petition did not provide sufficient information that discarded PVC, under current waste management practices, “present[s] a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when solid waste is improperly treated, stored, transported or disposed of, or otherwise managed (40 CFR 261.11).” Rather, much of the information provided in the petition concerned potential exposures during the use of PVC as a product. Based on the information in the petition, EPA concluded that a listing of discarded PVC was unwarranted. 


The denial is significant as it would have forced many printing operations to classify, manage, and dispose of any waste PVC material as hazardous waste. The amount generated each month would count toward a facility’s generator classification (e.g., very small, small quantity, or large quantity) and if enough was generated per month, cause the facility to change categories. The regulatory requirements increase as a generator moves up to a new category, with large quantity generators having the most requirements.  


PRINTING United Alliance worked with the Vinyl Institute as they responded to the petition. The Vinyl Institute took the lead and developed a detailed response to the issues identified by CBD and organized a coalition of related trade associations to support the challenge of claims contained in the petition.  


In this article, Gary Jones, Vice President, EHS Affairs, PRINTING United Alliance, addresses EPA’s denial of a petition to regulate PVC as hazardous waste. More information about EPA can be found at Business Excellence-EHS Affairs  or reach out to Gary should you have additional questions specific to how these issues may affect your business: gjones@printing.org.    
To become a member of the Alliance and learn more about how our subject matter experts can assist your company with services and resources such as those mentioned in this article, please contact the Alliance membership team: 888-385-3588 / membership@printing.org.  


Gary Jones Vice President of Environmental, Health, and Safety Affairs

Gary A. Jones is the Vice President of Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Affairs at PRINTING United Alliance in Fairfax, VA. His primary responsibility is to monitor and analyze EHS regulatory activities at all domestic and some international government levels. He provides representation on behalf of the printing and specialty graphic imaging industry. Mr. Jones works closely with the federal and state-level Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and other agencies. He also provides membership assistance on EHS compliance and sustainability programs through a variety of approaches including responding to inquiries, presentations, writing, and consulting services.

He holds a BS in biology from LaRoche College and an MS in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.

Speaking Topics:

  • Regulatory compliance and sustainability
  • Webinars on a wide variety of EHS related topics
  • Customized seminars and workshops, including: Compliance Today, Beyond Compliance Tomorrow, OSHA Compliance Essentials, and Hazardous Waste Boot Camp
  • Two-day workshops Environmental Compliance for Printers and OSHA Compliance for Printing

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