Progress Report 2022: Pathway 1
Scaling up PVC value chain circularity
“The PVC industry embraces the circular economy.
We commit to building upon the achievements made over the last 20 years to accelerate towards circularity. We aim to ensure controlled-loop management of PVC, from circular product design, the development of additional collection schemes and advanced recycling technologies, to ensuring the safe use of recyclate in new high-performance, durable products.”
1.1 Advancing our circularity ambitions
Through Pathway 1, the European PVC industry has confirmed the recycling commitments made to the European Commission in the framework of the EU Circular Plastic Alliance. The objective is to transform PVC waste into a high-quality, safe and valued resource, contributing in particular to SDG12 – sustainable consumption and production of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
In 2021, despite the contraction of economic activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,
810,775 tonnes of PVC waste were recycled within the VinylPlus framework,
of which 63.6% was pre-consumer waste and 36.4% postconsumer waste.
Research, innovation and best practices
› Promoting reuse and recycle in new products
In 2021, VinylPlus continued to support innovative projects to improve the collection and recycling of PVC applications, set up additional collection and recycling schemes where appropriate, and increase the use of recycled PVC in new products.
- Roofcollect® – ESWA15 Recycling Project, workshop organised in the Netherlands to enhance the utilisation of roofing membrane recyclates for new product applications
- Completion of the EATS Recycling Project, announced in June 2021: aimed at developing a new application using recycled PVC from the automotive industry in a closed loop, the outcome elected heel mats as the most promising product, and technical development was started by the project partner CIFRA
- Recyclable wood-like material based on rice husks and PVC, produced by the Resysta recycling consortium. In 2021, the Resysta network continued to develop its European collection points for waste material
- Through the Green Community Growth in Reused PVC project, the PVC Information Council Denmark promoted the reuse of end-of-life PVC pipes as a go-to material for community-building urban gardening in Denmark.
› Improving collection and recycling
To boost the PVC window sector’s contribution to the recycling targets set for 2025, EPPA developed a joint action plan with Recovinyl in 2020, focusing on France, Germany and Poland – the three countries with the most promising opportunities to increase recycling further.
In Germany, the collaboration extended to Rewindo and focused on three areas:
- promotion and communication about window recycling
- strengthening collection and recycling schemes
- supporting the optimisation of recycled PVC use in new windows
The “PVC recyclers meet PVC converters” event series by VinylPlus Deutschland continued in 2021, with the objective of raising awareness on PVC recycling.
In Poland, an organisational and managerial structure was implemented, aimed at improving infrastructure increase the collection and recycling of post-consumer windows.
WREP, the Italian Waste Recycling Project, is promoting the development of pilot schemes for sorting, collecting and recycling PVC from bulky urban waste in collaboration with multi-utilities and recyclers.
In 2021, the design and prototype production of a handheld device to sort PVC from other plastics using near-infrared hyperspectral technology (NIR) was commissioned to the company Phoenix.
WREP was also included as an example of best practice in the EU CIRCE202020 and CONDEREFF21 Interreg projects.
This phase confirmed that the approach is economically and environmentally worthwhile.
Four other utilities are scheduled to join the project in 2022.
› Advancing circularity in the healthcare sector
RecoMed is a well-established project aimed at collecting and recycling non-contaminated used PVC medical devices from UK hospitals, including face masks and tubing. The project currently involves 43 hospitals, and another 98 are on the waiting list. Due to COVID-19, the collection of PVC waste had to be paused. Nevertheless, RecoMed continued its awareness raising activities in 2021 and registered growing interest from healthcare structures, recyclers and the national government. RecoMed is a partnership project between the British Plastics Federation (BPF) and Axion, which is co-funded by VinylPlus.
Launched in February 2021, VinylPlus® Med is aimed at accelerating sustainability in healthcare across Europe through the recycling of discarded single-use PVC medical devices. It brings together hospitals, waste management companies, recyclers and the PVC industry.
VinylPlus® PharmPack is aimed at demonstrating the sustainability and recyclability of PVC pharma blister packaging in the framework of European packaging directive 94/62/EG and national laws. The project involves a multidisciplinary and international team that includes pharma film producers and recyclers, as well as VinylPlus national representatives, VinylPlus® Med and the PVC Med Alliance. Following a preparatory phase in 2021, the project is expected to be officially launched in 2022.
1.2 Fostering science-based solutions for the safe and sustainable use of additives
Science is key in our methodology. VinylPlus continues engaging with regulatory bodies to clarify and overcome legislative uncertainties, by providing science-based risk evaluations to demonstrate the safe use of additives and of PVC articles containing recyclates with legacy additives.
These are a few studies currently ongoing with the support of VinyPlus:
- Following German authorities’ call for evidence on a proposal for a broad bisphenol A (BPA) restriction in articles marketed in Europe, a study is being undertaken on the socio-economic impacts of exposure to detrimental substances present in soft rPVC
- A scientific project aimed at developing PBPK (physiologically-based pharmacokinetic) models for several plasticisers was started in 2017 by European Plasticisers and co-funded by VinylPlus. The objective was to demonstrate the safe use of plasticised PVC and support scientifically solid risk assessments. As reported in previous Progress Reports, the PBPK models for DINCH (di-isononyl cyclohexanoate) and DINP (di-isononyl phthalate) were validated and published in peer-reviewed journals in 2019 and 2020 respectively
- Scientific research to assess plasticisers concentration under equilibrium conditions is being carried out by Virginia Tech, with the aim of obtaining updated data on the impact of plasticisers on indoor air quality and to confirm plasticisers’ environmental performance and safe use
1.3 Supporting innovative recycling technologies
To accelerate towards circularity, VinylPlus is committed to supporting the development of chemical recycling technologies capable of handling difficult PVC waste that cannot be mechanically recycled in an eco-efficient manner.
› Research, innovation and best practices
VinylPlus® RecoChlor is a programme dedicated to PVC waste treatment methodology to recover and recycle chlorine from difficult-to-recycle end-of-life PVC products. VinylPlus® RecoChlor recently launched two major projects leading to the recovery and reuse of chlorine: