An efficient waste management system will minimise the amount of waste not being recovered and maximise the use of economically and environmentally sensible recovery schemes.
However, even products which have been in service for several decades or second life products containing recyclate, will eventually enter the waste system at some point and, therefore, methods have to be available to be able to deal with this waste.
The industry has a hierarchical preference for managing PVC at the end of its lifecycle.
This makes economic sense where sufficient quantities of homogeneous, clean and sorted waste can be made available. In these cases, the quality of recovered material allows production of the same or similar products.
A number of mechanical recycling projects for PVC are currently underway across Europe . They are extensively described on the Website www.vinylplus.org
Mechanical recycling of mixed plastic waste is also possible to a limited extent. The PVC industry is also dedicated to improving the sorting and recycling techniques used for mixed plastic waste.
This process breaks down PVC into feedstock components, making it complementary to mechanical recycling and more efficient for processing mixed or contaminated materials. The polymer is decomposed at high temperatures and the chemical components are recovered. In the case of PVC-rich feedstock, hydrochloric acid (HCl) is the main component recovered. It is then re-used in the PVC production process as a raw material. Some processes also recover the hydrocarbon part in the form of hydrocarbons or synthesis gas.
Incineration with Energy Recovery
Oil or gas used in PVC production can be utilised at least twice, making positive use of its heating value, through incineration with energy recovery. Incorporating PVC consumer products at the end of their useful life in controlled municipal incinerators reduces the need for additional fuel and reduces the amount of PVC going to landfill. A number of independent studies have demonstrated that PVC in addition to the natural presence of chlorine in waste, does not increase the generation of potentially harmful emissions. Modern incinerators are operated to the highest standards and equipped with pollution control equipment that minimises the release of emissions to the environment.
Whatever the nature of the PVC recovery process, there is always a residual fraction of waste which is not recyclable. For this limited fraction, controlled landfill still remains a disposal option. The findings of independent studies have confirmed that the presence of consumer products containing PVC in landfill does not constitute a significant risk to the environment.
- April 2003, Europe: PVC Recovery Options, Concept for Environmental and Economic System Analysis, commissioned by VINYL 2010
Authors: Johannes Kreißig, Dr. Martin Baitz, Jochen Schmid, Prof. Peter Kleine-Möllhoff (Reutlingen University) and Dr. Ivo Mersiowsky (Tu Tech Hamburg)
- December 1999, Europe: PVC and municipal solid waste combustion: Burden or Benefit?
This study compares from an economical, technical and environmental perspective this option to the others available ie: energy source as fossil fuel from incineration and reducing agent in cement kilns and blast furnaces, but also to mechanical recycling and landfilling. Chemical recycling consists in the degradation of a polymer into its basic constituents, for the reuse of the fraction(s) in a new polymer synthesis, namely hydrochloric acid in the case of PVC.
- September 2000, Europe: Behaviour of PVC products in landfilled municipal solid waste at different temperatures
- August 2000, Europe: MSWC salt residues: Survey of technologies for treatment