Reason to be cheerful: PVC recycling on the increase

Reason to be cheerful: PVC recycling on the increase

Don't think all plastics are bad. Certainly not recycled and recyclable plastics, which are becoming de rigeur in the eco-conscious household.

By Noah Dugall
Italian furniture company Zanotta's Lama lounge chair is made from recycled PVC

Italian furniture company Zanotta's Lama lounge chair is made from recycled PVC. VinylPlus, the European PVC industry's voluntary sustainable development programme, recycled a record 362,076 tonnes of PVC last year, keeping it on track to meet the target of recycling 800,000 tonnes a year by 2020.

A lot of us remain confused about sustainability issues around plastics, with the rather, er, crude view that anything derived from the petro-chemical industry should be a no-no for the environmentally responsible consumer.

There are, though, numerous advantages to plastics - longevity and being light in weight are obvious ones -  so it's far too simplistic to say plastics are inherently bad news from an eco angle.

And the fact that many types of plastics can now be recycled puts makes them a strong contender against many so-called natural products, so it makes sense to choose products made from recycled material where possible, whether it's drainpipes or raincoats you need.

Funky colourful recycled PVC chairs by Guy Harvey Furniture for Florida's Recycled Plastic Factory.
Recyclable vinyl flooring from Armstrong
Fontessa Melissa shoes made from recycled PVC, designed by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce,
Manufacturers such as Amtico and Armstrong are recycling vinyl flooring returned to them
Moduleo vinyl flooring is fully recyclable.
Amtico uses post as well as pre consumer waste in its vinyl flooring
Tectum lampshades by Jasmina Kontic are made from recycled PVC roof panels
Recyclable limestone look vinyl flooring from Harvey Maria

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride to give it its full name, is a type of plastic we all know, and it's the third most widely produced plastic in the world after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC, patented in 1913, is used for myriad purposes in the construction industry, and it's a firm favourite of the flooring, furniture and clothing industries too.

So it's good to hear that PVC manufacturers in Europe are are working to recycle more PVC so more products can be made from it. Vinyl flooring companies including giant Amtico, the UK's Harvey Maria and Moduleo are among those that recycle their product and have strong records on sustainability.

VinylPlus, the European PVC industry's sustainable development programme, says manufacturers have not only been recycling more but developing new technologies to deal with harder-to-treat types of PVC waste.

Last year the industry recycled some 360,000 tonnes of PVC products and is on course to achieve its goal of recycling 800,000 tonnes a year by 2020. VinylPlus also says significant efforts are being made to address the ‘legacy additives’ issue related to the use of restricted chemicals in recycled PVC. There has already been a decrease of 76 per cent in lead stabiliser consumption in the EU compared to 2007 levels, which means the industry should achieve its goal of stopping its use completely by 2015

Boil this lot up so to speak and a huge array of products can emerge from the pot
PVC piping is the norm in most countries
Garden hoses are made using flexible PVC and ones made from recycled PVC are on the market

PVC joins the circular economy

Last year's recycling statistics were presented at the recent Vinyl Sustainability Forum in Istanbul. VinylPlus chairman Filipe Constant says the industry is moving 'from a model of resource consumption that follows a ‘take-make-use-throw away' linear pattern into a truly circular economy model which puts end-of-life materials back into the production stream, extending the added-value of PVC’s inherent durability and versatility.'

A number of VinylPlus task forces are looking at key areas such as: how to incorporate renewable energy and raw materials; the sustainable use of additives, and the environmental footprint of PVC production.
A VinylPlus product label concept for PVC products has been developed in collaboration with The Natural Step – an NGO providing input and guidance for the development of the VinylPlus programme – and BRE, the UK's expert certification body.
Industry drives change
Speaking at the forum, Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Office for Partnerships, praised VinylPlus for its work and research into improving sustainability. He said more industry sectors should follow suit:  'Industry has a critical role to play in accelerating change, greening the economy and driving sustainable progress around the world.'