Sustainable and Recyclable
PVC has inherent sustainability characteristics. Made from rock salt (57%) and oil (43%), it contains less carbon than most major thermoplastics.
According to the results of eco-profiles published by PlasticsEurope – the association which represents all plastic material producers – there is no significant difference in the process energy between PVC and the other plastics.
VinylPlus’ definition of ‘Recycled PVC’: “Recycled PVC is a discarded PVC product, or semi-finished products, that are diverted from waste for use within a new product; processing waste is included provided it cannot be reused in the same process that generated the waste.”
As more than half of the weight of PVC is composed of chlorine, its feedstock energy is about half the feedstock energy needed for the plastics based mainly on hydrocarbons. The sum of process and feedstock energy is therefore below the corresponding sum for these other polymers. CO2 emissions from PVC production processes are similar to other major polymers.
It is also highly durable and energy efficient across a range of applications which makes for an extremely effective use of raw materials and avoids unnecessary depletion of natural resources.
PVC can be recycled repeatedly up to 8 times depending on the application, because the recycling process does not measurably decrease the chain length of PVC molecules. The European industry has been working very hard to boost collection of PVC waste and to optimise recycling technologies. The goal is to minimise waste and energy use while boosting the percentage of recyclate in new products.
A study completed in 2011 on behalf of DG Environment (European Commission), estimated the amount of construction/demolition waste to be around 460 million tonnes in 2005. Plastics waste accounted for less than 2% of this waste. The amount of PVC waste represents less than 0.4% of the total amount of construction waste. In parallel, a study published in 2000 by Prognos estimated that PVC represented less than 1% of municipal solid waste (MSW).
It is important to note that not all waste can be recycled in a sustainable manner. The amount of collectable waste in Europe actually includes PVC waste that can be reclaimed, graded and transported for recycling. It does not include some elements of available waste that are not economically or technically feasible to collect or recycle.
One of the unique advantages of PVC compared to other materials is the possibility of changing the formulation to improve the safety and eco-efficiency of the final product, while maintaining the same level of technical performance.
Manufacturing window profiles with 70% recycled PVC rather than all new PVC reveals savings of up to 50% in energy, over 60% in air emissions and more than 60% in water emissions1.
PVC products contribute significantly to energy efficiency through low thermal conductivity. For examples, PVC window profiles have three times the heat insulation efficiency of aluminium profiles, increasing the energy efficiency of our homes and workplaces while maintaining our comfort.