In 2016, PVC waste recycling within the VinylPlus framework reached 568,696 tonnes (+10.4% over the previous year), with a significant increase in volumes in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands and the UK.
Recovinyl was the main contributor, with a registered volume of 560,492 tonnes of recycled PVC waste.
Using recycled PVC helps meet resource-efficiency targets and allows the preservation of natural resources. It has been calculated that CO2 savings of up to 92% are achieved when PVC is recycled: recycled PVC’s primary energy demand is typically between 45% to 90% lower than virgin PVC production (depending on type of PVC and the recycling process).
Furthermore, according to a conservative estimation, for each kg of PVC recycled, 2 kg of CO2 are saved. On this basis, CO2 savings from PVC recycling in Europe is now at more than 1.1 million tonnes of CO2 saved per year.
According to a study by TAUW, an independent European consulting and engineering company, on average one employee is needed to recycle 500 tonnes/year of PVC. Hence the 568,696 tonnes of PVC recycled in 2016 contributed to the creation of more than 1,100 direct jobs in recycling plants.
Regulatory constraints related to the presence of legacy additives are still considered the major threat to recycling post-consumer waste. There is evidence that both Pb (lead) and DEHP, present as legacy additives in recyclates, continue to impact recycling markets. However, the VinylPlus Controlled-Loop Committee (CLC) recommended maintaining the target of recycling 800,000 tonnes per year by 2020 and continuing to strive for additional volumes via the Recovinyl scheme.
While confirming the overall recycling target for 2020, the detailed analysis carried out by the CLC as part of the mid-term review showed that the objective of developing and exploiting innovative technology to recycle 100,000 tonnes per year of difficult-to-recycle PVC material by 2020 can no longer be considered realistic. None of the explored technologies or projects – some of which are promising but still at an experimental stage – is expected to be able to contribute sufficient recycling quantities by 2020 to achieve this objective. The target was consequently withdrawn. Nevertheless, VinylPlus will continue to pursue efforts to find technically and economically viable solutions for difficult-to-recycle PVC.