PVCConstruct is a cultural project without any commercial interest. It was born to illustrate the many ways in which Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) can enhance our daily lives.
Why not substitute another material for PVC?
- because one day, you may need a blood transfusion,
- because you appreciate hygienic & disinfected walls, floors, soils & seats in hospitals,
- because you demand hygienic packaging for fresh meat in supermarkets,
- because you need on a daily basis your bank card & credit card,
- because you want sustainable household plumbing, piping & sewage installations,
- because you want safe & non-inflammable electrical installations in your home,
- because you prefer maintenance-free window frames that last 3 times longer than precious tropical wood,
- because you like to discover the façade of the San Marco Place in Venice, covered during it's renovation with PVC foils depicting the master ornamentation,
- because, in the full heat of sun or under the rain, you love the protection provided in the Stade de France by its PVC roofing,
- because on the dry island of Azores, you appreciate the water collected in a volcanic crater to water flowers & grow fruit,
- because PVC is important in your daily life...
and all this at lowest cost and with low impact to the environment according to eco-balance results
Aren’t alternatives to PVC less expensive?
When considering the cost of PVC products and alternatives it is important to not only consider the sales price but also to consider any direct and indirect costs throughout the product life and at the end of life when the product becomes waste. Direct costs include maintenance of products during their life cycle (e.g. painting of wood windows), or lower energy demand due to low weight in transport (e.g. in cars) Indirect costs include among others an assessment of costs of reducing the impact on the environment, for instance by reducing the greenhouse gases emissions.
Several studies have considered full-life costs of PVC products and alternatives. Conclusions have shown that when all direct and indirect costs are considered PVC products are usually the least expensive option in most of the major product applications. A study which examined several major applications for PVC was completed for the UK Government in 2001 and concluded that, “The life-cycle costs of PVC products would appear to involve significantly lower costs than equivalent products made out of alternative materials.”
Why do some local authorities still choose to ban PVC if all that industry says is true?
Due to pressure of some non-governmental organisations in the past, some local authorities initiated a PVC phase out program. Guidelines were written for public procurement, often with the help of NGO’s. These guidelines usually contain misleading and outdated information. That’s why the ban (or material substitution) is not justified.
By communicating the developments in the PVC-industry on the field of recycling, etc many local authorities are beginning to review their phase out policy and rewriting their guidelines.
Unfortunately, some local authorities are still reluctant to change their guidelines and some NGO’s keep supplying them with misleading and outdated information. The only way to change this is to be as transparent as possible, keep communicating the facts and to educate people to make material choices based on proper full scientific lifecycle assessment.
Why is PVC still used as a packaging material?
PVC was one of the first polymers used in food packaging applications that replaced many traditional materials such as glass as well as various forms of card and paper. Some of the key reasons for its success compared to traditional materials are highlighted below:
PVC is lightweight compared with glass, with the added benefit of reduced transport emissions
It is shatter resistant which was seen as an immense benefit as it would reduce the number of accidents in the home and outside.
PVC has excellent organoleptic properties which means that it imparts no taint or taste to foodstuffs
PVC has excellent barrier properties for the preservation of food
Innovative designs and product shapes can be achieved and all with excellent clarity and transparency
Compared to other thermoplastics PVC offers some unique properties and these include:
A wider range of additives can be used in PVC compared to any other polymer (this is due to its polar nature). So PVC in packaging can have a diverse range of applications from rigid thermoformed sheet – used in sandwich cartons, through to soft cling film – used in the preservation of food
It can be formed into products requiring complex shapes such as those with blown handles
PVC is very easy to print on.
Excellent cost/performance ratio
PVC is fully approved for use in food contact applications throughout the world. Many of the additives currently used in PVC are already on European incomplete additives lists such as those set out in EC Directive 2002/72 and later amendments.
There are various options for PVC packaging at end-of-life. Like any other thermoplastic, PVC can be mechanically recycled and recycling programmes have been established throughout Europe for both bottles and trays. Other options are possible.
In summary, PVC packaging plays an important role in the protection of a variety of foodstuffs, from specialised tamper-proof packaging to commodity food display trays.
Ceasing the use of PVC in packaging would reduce the freedom of choice to the consumer with no added benefit to the environment.
What is the PVC industry doing to stop people deselecting PVC as a material?
Despite the prejudices, the PVC industry is gaining business in major applications and is still growing. It understands that prejudices and lingering misperceptions are best addressed by an open communication of the facts towards stakeholders.
The industry’s Vinyl 2010 voluntary commitment is playing a major role in this communication. It’s an important framework for the continuous improvement of the environmental, social and economical performance of the European PVC-chain. For example, it ensured elimination of cadmium additives and its lead reduction programme is ahead of its intermediate targets The industry has also set up a recycling policy for PVC waste management in Europe.
More information may be found on www.vinyl2010.org
Why not make PVC bio-degradable so that it can rot away?
PVC is mainly used in medium or long-life applications, for which its ability to resist natural degradation is a significant advantage.
When used in packaging, PVC is often chosen for its barrier performance and hence any process that would progressively impair this resistance would be counterproductive
Bio-degradable plastics are presented as one of the possible solutions to the problem of litter. The main products causing the litter problem are plastic carrier bags and plastic drink bottles. Neither of these products is made of PVC anymore, and hence PVC packaging is not actually a significant contributor to the plastic litter problem.
Is the incineration of PVC more expensive than for other types of waste?
Any type of waste brings specific constraints and hence specific costs. The main costs incurred in the incineration of PVC result from the neutralisation of HCl. These costs disappear when HCl is recovered and sold. An attempt to identify the costs of PVC incineration has been made in a study carried out on behalf of the E.U. authorities.
Generation of residues from neutralisation of acid gases ((HCl, SO2) is highly dependent of the gas treatment system employed. In the EU study it was assumed that 100% of the chlorine was to be neutralised by adding neutralisation agents. The fact is that a significant part of the chlorine is being held in the bottom ash and the fly ash (15% each) i.e. not more than 70% of the chlorine is to be neutralised by adding neutralisation agents. If this is taken into account, the generation of neutralisation residues from PVC in European MSWI’s is on average 0.4 kg/kg PVC and the corresponding costs are low compared to the benefits PVC products bring to the consumers.