PVC recycling in Europe

In 1997, the European Union Commission launched a ‘Horizontal Initiative’ to evaluate the environmental footprint of PVC and to make a proposal for a European Union policy on PVC.

This initiative resulted in the publication of a seriesof studies, focused on waste management, followed in July 2000 by a Green Paper on PVC. The associations involved in the PVC industry (ECVM, the European Plastics Converters EuPC, the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates ECPI and the European Stabilisers Producers Association ESPA) signed in March 2000 a “Voluntary Commitment of the PVC industry” covering the entire production chain of PVC products. This commitment was updated and expanded in October 2001, and called “Vinyl 2010 - The Voluntary Commitment of the PVC industry.”

The Voluntary Commitment aims at enhancing the sustainability of PVC for each part of its life cycle, an essential part being improved management of post-consumer PVC waste. After its successful completion it was replaced by the VinylPlus sustainability programme launched in June 2011.

Overall waste management strategy for PVC
The European plastics industry is committed to making the most efficient possible use of natural resources. Its policy of `resource efficiency' aims to balance environmental concern against the advantages of our industrial society and to set both in the context of economic feasibility.

A strategy to promote resource efficiency has been developed by PlasticsEurope, which represents the European plastics producing industry. This is known as the `Integrated Approach' and covers all stages of plastics usage from production to final disposal.

The integrated approach to waste encompasses the concepts of:

  • Prevention via reduction at source - minimising the volume and weight of waste at the production stage.
  • Re-use - providing an extended life for certain products.
  • Recycling - making new products out of used goods.
  • Energy recovery - harnessing the high energy value of spent plastic goods to produce light, heat and power.
  • Landfill - for non-recoverable products and the residual waste from recovery operations.