Recently, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming that polyvinyl chloride – more commonly known as PVC or vinyl – should be regulated as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The complaint comes seven years after the Center formally petitioned EPA to regulate discarded PVC under both RCRA and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Although EPA denied the Center’s petition with respect to TSCA, it never formally responded with respect to RCRA. The Center now seeks an order compelling EPA to act on the 2014 petition.

PVC is one of the world’s most common plastic polymers, and can be found virtually everywhere: building materials, packaging, medical tubing, household products, and electronics, to name a few. According to the complaint, PVC products contain vinyl chloride, a human carcinogen, as well as significant concentrations of chemical additives, such as phthalate plasticizers, known to have toxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic effects on humans and other life forms. Exposure to these chemicals, the Center claims, “is associated with a broad array of developmental and behavioral abnormalities in humans, fish, and wildlife.”

Designation of PVC as hazardous waste would require revisions to EPA’s solid waste management guidelines and could have major implications for manufacturers and consumers alike.