PVC, a Recyclable Material - Ideal for Reprocessing
PVC (polyvinyl chloride), sometimes known as ‘vinyl’, is a thermoplastic material made of 57% chlorine (derived from industrial grade salt) and 43% carbon (derived predominantly from oil / gas via ethylene). PVC is inexpensive to make, requires minimal maintenance when in use, and is extremely durable (it is commonly used to make long-lasting products, often with a life-expectancy exceeding 60 years). Thanks to its unique polymer structure, PVC products are well suited for recycling when they come to the end of their life.
PVC compounds are 100% recyclable physically, chemically or energetically. After mechanical separation, grinding, washing and treatment to eliminate impurities, it is reprocessed using various techniques (granulated or powder) and reused in the production.
There are two principal ways of recycling PVC:
- Mechanical recycling: PVC waste is ground into small pieces that can be easily processed into new PVC compounds ready to be melted and formed into new products.
- Feedstock recycling: PVC waste is broken right back down into its chemical molecules, which can be used again to make PVC or other materials.
Valuable material should never be thrown into landfill
Dumping PVC in a landfill takes up precious land and squanders a valuable resource. Most PVC products are voluminous and light, and may last for hundreds of years without degrading. Its value should always be re-captured in some way either through recycling or at the very least by utilising its calorific value as a component of a clean energy-from-waste system, in industry power generation or district heating schemes.
As landfill is being progressively restricted within the European Union, recycling will gradually become the principal option for many end-of-life PVC products.
VinylPlus & Recovinyl are gradually closing the loop
Waste collection is, of course, the starting point for any recycling process. This is why Recovinyl was established to motivate the collection and recycling processes through financial incentives. This strategy proved to be a highly effective way of taking the modest PVC recycling volumes that existed in the pre-Vinyl 2010 EU to an impressive 250,000+ tonnes a year of post-consumer PVC waste.
But preventing material from being landfilled is not a sustainable end in itself. To close the loop and preserve resources in a more sustainable system, product manufacturers need to be encouraged to keep increasing the volumes of recyclate that they include in their new products.
VinylPlus has increased its target for recycling to 800,000 tonnes by 2020 (now including ex-factory industrial waste as well as post-consumer waste) and has switched its focus to stimulating the re-use of recycled material. The goal is to create a “Pull Market” where the increase in recycled volume of PVC will be paired with an increase in demand for recyclate. To achieve that, Recovinyl will act as a mediator between recyclers and converters by certifying the quality and volume of the recycled PVC that is being produced and purchased.