For more than 20 years, the European PVC industry is making a great effort together to master challenges in terms of sustainable development. European PVC manufacturers agreed on an industry charter in 1995. The results of the agreement are specific emission limits in manufacturing S-PVC and vinyl chloride, which fall below legally stipulated values.
In addition, the four major European associations ECVM (PVC manufacturers), ECPI (PVC plasticiser manufacturers, from 2017: European Plasticisers ), ESPA (PVC stabiliser manufacturers) and EuPC (plastics converters) signed the Voluntary Commitment of the European PVC industry on Sustainable Development Vinyl 2010 in 2000, including specific objectives for the responsible and sustainable use of additives as well as the development of recycling technologies and its volumes. All the goals of Vinyl 2010 were reached or even passed.
The completion of Vinyl 2010 also marks the beginning of the new sustainability programme VinylPlus which was launched in the summer of 2011 and built on the success of the previous program. Vinyl 2010 has managed to establish an Europe-wide infrastructure for collection and recycling of more than 250,000 tonnes PVC per year, and to replace additives like cadmium-based stabilisers.
In the second decade, VinylPlus has set the following targets for the European PVC industry:
- A quantum leap in recycling rates of PVC and in achieving the development of innovative recycling technologies to reach its goal of 800,000 tonnes recycled PVC anually by 2020.
- Addressing concerns about organochlorine emissions,.
- Ensuring the use of additives based on sustainability criteria,
- Increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies and raw materials in PVC production.
- Promoting sustainability throughout the entire PVC value chain..
VinylPlus combines the majority of leading companies from the PVC industry in EU-28, Norway and Switzerland. The programme was developed together with the international NGO The Natural Step (TNS). Progress is reviewed by an independent Monitoring Committee with the majority of members being external stakeholders.
The results are anually published in the “VinylPlus Progress Report” and presented at the international Vinyl Sustainability Forum to stakeholders from the industry, politics, public authorities and media since a couple of years now. With registered 568,696 tonnes of PVC waste recycled in 2016, VinylPlus continues to progress toward its 2020 recycling target. Also successful is the replacement of lead-based stabilisers with calcium-based stabilisers in the EU-28 by the end of 2015 in new products. The plasticisers market has also changed significantly. The use of DEHP has been reduced clearly to non-classified phthalates and other plasticisers.
Material of the Future
PVC is capable of playing an important role in sustainable development. One prerequisite is that political decisions are made based on proven criteria. Considerable improvements in raw material and energy efficiency have been established in the current ecological profiles on manufacturing PVC.
The low life-cycle costs of many PVC products allow for the financing of important ecological and social improvements. Progress in recycling and disposal has greatly resolved the problem of waste. Many formerly, fiercely-debated topics concerning risk (substitution of critical additives) could be defused. This has lead to a scientific and political re-evaluation of PVC.
Our environmental, economic, and social policy is oriented towards the guiding principle of sustainable, future-oriented development. Cost-effective products such as those made of PVC are economically, ecologically, and socially “competitive”.
PVC offers many positive prerequisites for sustainable development for our industrial society through:
- low-energy expenditure in manufacturing and processing
- the use of the practically unlimited resource of salt
- the combined production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide
- low emissions and waste during manufacturing and processing
- mechanical and feedstock recycling
- good price-performance ratio of products along with environmental costs
- immense ecological/social optimisation potential based on outstanding economical advantages.
In spite of the advantages of PVC and PVC products already achieved, manufacturers and converters are working resolutely in the future on
- further improvements on ecological properties of PVC
- further improvement on the economic competitiveness of PVC
- and the further improvement of social needs.
PVC is a modern, high-performance material, which will be urgently needed in the future as well. The low share of crude oil saves limited resources and increases the economic efficiency of this material. Longevity and resistance to environmental factors make PVC the material of choice for economic planning and sustainable construction. Furthermore, the European PVC industry will achieve even great environmental protection and more consumer safety with the VinylPlus agreement.