'If we are to achieve sustainable development, we will need to display greater responsibility for the ecosystems on which all life depends, for each other as a single human community, and for the generations that will follow our own, living tomorrow with the consequences of the decisions we take today’
PVC plays a major role in delivering and sustaining the quality, comfort and safety of modern life-styles. Its impressive ratio of cost to performance also means that people of all income groups can enjoy these benefits. High living standards are not just about the present, however. Future generations also have the right to material and other benefits. This is the foundation of the concept of ‘Sustainable Development’. PVC products are already helping every day to improve people’s lives and conserve natural resources in a world that is growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for water, food, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.
PVC is used in various fields ranging from essential services (water supply, sewage, supply of electric power, etc.), housing, transportation, consumer products, and electronics, to medical devices and products. The applications are generally divided on the basis of the hardness of products, e.g., rigid, flexible. PVC products feature most prominently in those requiring long service lives.
A well understood material
PVC is a synthetic material derived from natural resources (oil and salt) like many others used in our modern world, and is one of the most scientifically investigated substances on the planet. Investigations have consistently found that far from being the problem material that some NGOs have portrayed it to be, science indicates that It is not very different from other materials and indeed posseses some interesting natural advantages.
With a lower carbon footprint
The magnitude of CO2 emission for the material we use throughout its lifecycle, from production to consumption and disposal, is an important factor when considering the global warming issue. PVC is proven as a material with minimal environmental load in terms of CO2 emission, when compared with metal or glass products of the same application .
PVC products also contribute significantly to energy efficiency through low thermal conductivity. PVC window profiles have three times the heat insulation efficiency of aluminium profiles. They cut down energy consumption for heating and air conditioning.
That uses less natural resources to make
57% of PVC is made out of chlorine, which is derived from common salt that is abundant on earth. Therefore PVC contributes significantly to saving oil or gas, which are non renewable resources, in comparison to other plastics whose composition depends entirely on oil.
Usefully durable and 100% recyclable
Plastics are often perceived as symbols of throwaway or single use. However, in reality plastics are durable materials that do not rust or corrode. PVC is an exceptionally durable plastic, used for instance in water supply and sewage pipes, which can last for over 50 years. Most of PVC products are used in durable applications. More than half of all PVC products are long life products with service lives of over 15 years.
PVC is a material well-suited to recycling. It has the longest history of recycling among plastics, and it is most advanced in mechanical recycling. For example, in Japan about 68% of end-of-life agricultural films (agro-films) was recycled in 2005 and used for flooring, etc. In Europe, more than 260,000 tons of post-consumer products were recycled in 2011 through industry-sponsored schemes.
All materials, and PVC is no exception, have sustainability issues, arising both from their specific properties but also from the ways in which they are used and disposed of across the life cycle.
Where PVC differs from other materials is that the PVC industry perhaps has a better understanding of its product’s sustainability than manufacturers of most other synthetic materials; and is working systematically to address these to ensure that it will continue to play a useful role in a more sustainable future for mankind.
- July 2000, United Kingdom: Evaluation of PVC using the ‘natural step’ framework
The new commitment of the European PVC industry, VinylPlus, addresses emissions during production, recycling and sustainable use of additives, as well as energy consumption, potential use of renewable raw materials .and sustainability awareness across the value chain. See www.vinylplus.eu