Two weeks ago, the German television channel WDR broadcast a report on PVC flooring as part of its consumer advice programme „Servicezeit“ (‚Service Time‘). The four minutereport was entitled „New Flooring Made of PVC – Robust and Low-Maintenance“. Alongside the AGPU member company Project Floors and its Marketing Manager Marco Knop, the programme also featured statements made by Dr Ernst Schröder, the Managing Director of the „TFI-Institut für Bodensysteme“ at RWTH Aachen University, and an unnamed floor-layer.

From AGPU’s point of view, the report can be seen as positive because it clearly specifies the benefits of modern floor coverings made of PVC. The expert statements also contribute towards the favourable light in which PVC flooring is portrayed.

The TV report can be viewed in the WDR „Mediathek“ library at http://www1.wdr.de/fernsehen/ratgeber/servicezeit/sendungen/pvc-boden106.html.

In a report published on the website of the GEW Landesverband Hessen from 28th August 2014, the union’s Environmental and Harmful Substance Officer warns about a „health risk caused by PVC plasticisers“ in schools in the German city of Wiesbaden. The author attempts to back up his alleged claims by quoting a number of out-of-date studies, the findings of which are now considered to be obsolete on the basis of current knowledge. In comparison, several recent independent studies, for example those conducted by the ECHA, the European Commission and a number of test laboratories of the German Federal States actually explicitly give the all clear where the issues featured in the report are concerned.

AGPU responded to the report by initially informing the members of its Knowledge Working Group about this latest scaremongering attempt. The AGPU Managing Director Thomas Hülsmann also wrote to the Chairman of the GEW Landesverband Hessen to draw his attention to the current circumstances and invite him to discuss the matter in person. Dr Rüdiger Baunemann, the Director General of PlasticsEurope Germany and a member of the AGPU Managing Board, also responded to the article by sending a letter to the Executive Board of the German Education Union (GEW).

On 20th May 2014, Prowindo invited representatives from the fields of politics and the environment to a parliamentary breakfast held in Berlin. A few weeks ago, Dr Franziska Krüger and Dr Johanna Wurbs from the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) followed up their discussions at the event by visiting the recycling plant run by the environmental technology company VEKA Umwelttechnik in the town of Hörselberg-Hainich (near Eisenach) in the German Federal State of Thuringia in order to gain a first-hand insight into the recycling of PVC windows in action.

Norbert Bruns (Managing Director of VEKA Umwelttechnik) was joined on the tour of the facility by Ralf Olsen (Managing Director of pro-K), Michael Vetter (Managing Director of Prowindo) and the AGPU Managing Director Thomas Hülsmann.

This visit was particularly important against the background of the assessment of the so-called „legacy additives“, former additives that are no longer used in PVC products but can still be found in recycled PVC material. Our aim is to achieve an exception where this issue is concerned so that these established mechanical recycling activities can continue to take place in the future. This is the only way to ensure that the PVC loop can be closed and valuable resources conserved. We look forward to hearing what the UBA has to say on the matter.

The German Federal Government has decided to respond to the controversial method of using fracking activities to extract natural gas by introducing a regulatory package that gives the protection of health and drinking water „absolute priority“. In a recent response (18/2478) to a minor interpellation (18/2227) launched by the German parliamentary group Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, the government announced that it would make a corresponding cabinet decision in November 2014.

It also explained that it wants to legally prohibit fracking in slate and coal seam rock formations that are located an insufficient distance away from usable groundwater because experts are not yet able to estimate the impacts of such activities due to a lack of experience of fracking in Germany. The German Federal Government has additionally announced that it also plans to place strict restrictions on fracking in other rock formations and at large depths, using its response to declare that it will „introduce the strictest rules that have ever existed in this area in Germany“. As a result, fracking activities for the extraction of shale and coal seam gas for economic purposes will not take place in Germany „for the foreseeable future“.

A ban on fracking here in Germany would lead to a number of competitive disadvantages for PVC production activities, as was proven by Hans-Christian Porth from VESTOLIT in his presentation on „PVC in Europe“ at the „PVC and the Environment“ workshop in June. In fact, the field of PVC production in Europe is now already suffering from a cost disadvantage (raw materials + energy) of 150 to 200 US dollars per ton in comparison with the USA, where fracking technology is used intensively.

The German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) recently published a detailed report on existing regulations concerning environmentally friendly procurement in Germany. According to the UBA experts, the city states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia are all pioneers when it comes to the implementation of suitably binding regulations. On a more negative note, the report also criticises the fact that as of the deadline for the collection of data in January 2014, a multitude of German states still only use directory provisions, recommendations or guidelines where the topic of environmentally friendly procurement is concerned.

The report, which covers a total of nearly 50 pages, also deals with PVC. The overview of the German Federal State of Hamburg, for example, refers to a resolution on PVC from 1999 that is still valid today. The resolution, which was passed on 20th April at the request of the city parliament, stipulates that the use of PVC must be avoided if suitable alternative products are available. The „rather outdated“ resolution is also quoted in the current procurement guidelines of the City of Hamburg (July 2014). AGPU is currently working in cooperation with several of its members in an attempts to establish contact with those responsible for this matter in Hamburg.