Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is one of the most versatile and widely used polymers in the world. PVC continues to make life safer and more comfortable through its extensive use in building and construction, as well as in water distribution, automotive, cabling, smart cards and credit cards, packaging, fashion and design, sports, agriculture, telecommunications, medical devices and a wide array of other areas and products.
PVC is an intrinsically low-carbon plastic: 57% of its molecular weight is chlorine derived from common salt; 5% is hydrogen; and 38% is carbon. It is an extremely durable and cost-efficient material which can be recycled several times at end of life without losing its essential properties.
Several PVC applications – such as pipes, window profiles, cables, flooring, membranes and films – have been analysed in terms of Life Cycle Assessments and eco-efficiency, and they have shown excellent environmental performance.
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PVC’s Contribution to a Sustainable Society
Thanks to their intrinsic characteristics and properties, PVC products can make positive contributions towards several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) targets. To help eradicate poverty, PVC can provide goods and services that underpin basic human needs, making them available for all, at affordable costs.
PVC pipes help provide access to clean water and sanitation all over the world. PVC piping systems are easy to install and highly durable, enabling efficient irrigation even in remote areas and addressing global issues such as soil erosion and water scarcity.
In healthcare, PVC devices account for about 40% of all plastics-based medical devices in hospitals, where they are used for their durability, barrier properties and physiological inertness. Healthcare buildings benefit from PVC applications such as flooring, wall coverings and window profiles in terms of safety and hygiene as well as personal comfort. PVC is also utilised for temporary emergency structures (field hospitals, tents to protect against biological risk and medical devices) that are suitable for health emergencies.
In the building and construction sector, which accounts for around 70% of PVC volumes, the main PVC applications such as windows profiles, pipes, flooring, roofing membranes, wire and cable offer solutions that are efficient in terms of cost, energy, and resources.
PVC products not only save energy during use, but they are also integral to renewable energy technologies. Examples include transparent pipes for photo-bioreactors, photovoltaic cells on reflective PVC roofing membranes, wind turbine blades pressure pipes for geothermal projects, pipes in biogas plants and solar pond liners.