VinylPlus at work

According to the principles of a circular economy described in the European Union’s roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and the Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan, companies have to re-think and re-design their products and processes to reduce raw materials and energy consumption, extend their life-cycle, and re-use and recycle as much as possible. The PVC industry is no exception and programmes like VinylPlus are perfectly aligned to the “do-more-with-less” school of thought.

This is a non-exhaustive selection of best practice examples developed within the framework of the VinylPlus programme showing that we don’t just talk the talk, we also walk the walk.

High performance fun and games

Sustainability was a core component of the 2012 Olympics and a key reason for London winning the bid. Recognising the potential scale of PVC required for the Games – from membrane wraps to flooring, cabling and pipework – the London 2012 Sustainability Group engaged VinylPlus, via the British Plastics Federation, in conversations with the London authorities to define their policy on PVC.

The policy set out parameters for using PVC, including manufacturing requirements (i.e. compliance with ECVM Charter1, freedom from heavy metals, and preference for at least 30% recycled content) as well as a take-back and re-use or recycle clause.

The objective was to stimulate the supply chain to find innovative ways to provide environmental benefits and use additives sustainably taking into account the whole life cycle of the product.The policy also recognised that there were certain functional requirements for which PVC is the most appropriate material (e.g. cabling).

Take back schemes that specified incineration, land-filling or any form of disposal that did not include recycling or re-engineering options were
not acceptable. The ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority, www.gov.uk/oda) contractors approached the supply chain to procure suitable solutions.

Thanks to its participation in TexyLoop® (www.texyloop.com), a unique and operational recycling chain and its cooperation with Gymnova, VinylPlus partner Serge Ferrari (www.sergeferrari.com) met the strict ODA requirements.

Over 140,000 square meters of PVC were used at the London Olympics, mostly in applications such as:

  • Tensile fabric structures
  • High performance sports surfaces and seating

A very large amount of the PVC used, especially in
temporary structures, has been recycled by TexyLoop®, which was developed with the support of Vinyl 2010.

Altro (www.altro.co.uk) was another company able to meet the very strict criteria and became the only approved supplier of safety flooring and hygienic wall cladding to the London 2012 Games. Its adhesive- free safety flooring, which can be taken up easily post-installation for re-use or recycling, was used as a temporary surface in a large number of buildings.

Recycling PVC waste means not only giving a new life to a valuable resource, but also re-thinking and re-designing recycled pvc production and applications in order to obtain a higher added value in terms of technical and environmental performance.

Sitting on sustainable innovation

The high-quality, virgin-like, regenerated PVC produced by the VinyLoop® (www.vinyloop.com) recycling plant in Ferrara, Italy, is now a key component of many finished goods’ eco-efficiency. A physical, solvent-based, recycling technology,

VinyLoop® produces high quality R-PVC (recycled PVC) compounds.

Using VinyLoop® recycled materials, French outdoors equipment company Lafuma has created a top-quality chair. When the textile is worn down or no longer in style, it is possible to bring it back to the nearest dealer.

The materials are then sent to VinyLoop® Ferrara for recycling using TexyLoop®, a process dedicated to recycle such coated textiles.

Recycled PVC granulates from the Ferrara plant can also be found in applications such as garden hoses, geo-membranes for ponds or even shoe soles. They all offer significant primary energy and water consumption savings.

The garden hose manufacturing process is based on the use of different kinds of plasticised PVC compounds. VinyLoop® has managed to use up to 90% of regenerated PVC, and the hose itself (which includes recycled PVC), is totally recyclable, significantly lowering its environmental footprint.

Bees’ know-how to treat water

After collection and delivery by specialised companies, plastics waste can be separated and crushed to obtain raw materials. PVC packaging waste is ground into new compounds, and used to produce drainage sheets for ground treatment.

After Hamon (www.hamon.com) has dismantled the cooling towers and removed the tray, a second company, CIFRA (www.cifra.fr), produces thermoforming recycled products such as honeycombs for water treatment following further recycling and treatment.

Hoser (www.kunststoffmatten24.de), another example, produces high-tech special boards from recycled coated fabrics, such as mats for ground stabilisation used as flooring in horse dressage and show jumping.

Similarly, post-industrial PVC/PE film waste is used to create greenhouse flooring.

Recycling investment and technology that pay off

The PVC industry is comfortable using recovered pre-consumer offcuts from the production process. However, it can still be challenging to find reliable, high-quality sources of post-consumer waste.

PVC Recycling Limited (www.pvcrecycling.co.uk), one of Recovinyl's longest-standing members, has been developing a process that recovers high-quality PVC powder and pellets from post-consumer PVC waste.

Recovinyl is an initiative of the European PVC industry. Its mission is to optimise the resource efficiency of the PVC industry by mediating between recyclers and converters to enable a trustworthy relationship and material flow based on a PVC recyclate certification system.

PVC Recycling Ltd Managing Directors Ian and Joanne Murray have overcome challenges along the way to prove their process and now supply recycled PVC powder and pellets to manufacturers worldwide. The technically-advanced plant has the capacity to recover in excess of 12,000 tonnes per year; with plenty of scope for expansion as the market develops.

This success attracted the attention of The North West Fund for Energy and the Environment, managed by 350 Investment partners, which has provided development funding to PVC Recycling. This has allowed Ian and Joanne to significantly expand their output and establish a specialist extrusion capability to help both manufacturers and users of PVC-based products benefit from the substantial margin and environmental advantages of using recycled post-consumer material.

PVC-U's (unplasticised PVC) environmental credentials are impressive with research suggesting that it can actually be recycled up to seven times without losing performance1. PVC windows and doors have an average 35 to 40-year lifespan, so at the end of their useful lives they can potentially be turned into many new and diverse products over several centuries.

Post-consumer recyclate performs exactly like virgin raw material for both extruders and end-users; and as a result of the firm's unique processes, it does not suffer from the visible inclusions that occur in other recycled material. It is suitable for manufacturing back into everyday products, from equestrian fencing to new PVC windows and plastic building products, such as fascias, soft fittings and guttering.

Dumping PVC in landfill takes up precious land and squanders valuable materials. As landfill is being progressively restricted in the European Union, recycling will increasingly become the principal, if not the only option for many end-of-life PVC products.

Collection, of course, is the starting point for recycling and hence it was the main focus for Recovinyl when it was created back in 2003. However, it is time for us to move beyond simply ensuring that the volumes of PVC being recycled each year increase. Going forward, Recovinyl's work will revolve around optimising the resource efficiency of the entire PVC industry by mediating between recyclers and converters to enable a trustworthy relationship and material flow based on a PVC recyclate certification system.

The final goal is to encourage the development of a 'pull market' for recycled PVC products. Only by doing so can we guarantee that recycling will help us preserve fossil fuels and land for future generations.

Eric Criel, Recovinyl General Manager

Driving resource efficiency

Used in car interiors world-wide, PVC is a long-established supplier of the automotive industry. PVC rolls from VinylPlus member Wardle Storeys (www.wardlestoreys.com), are being recycled and reprocessed in an effort to improve the overall company’s resource efficiency. 

Improving the way their energy, water, raw materials and waste is managed helps Wardle Storeys to be more competitive, save money and demonstrate reduced environmental impact.

VinylPlus has not developed the programme on its own. We have involved an NGO, The Natural Step, which is a big experiment and also many other stakeholders from inside and outside the PVC industry.Together we have identified 5 key challenges and about 30 different targets – although very important, recycling is just one of them – including the sustainable use of additives, incorporation of renewable materials and energy, emissions reductions, etc.
Vinyl 2010 is one of the few successful industry Voluntary Agreements in Europe. The key has been working together as a unified value chain since its launch. As our goals become more ambitious, we must be able to maintain this united front but cannot do it on our own. It is important that our work continues to be overseen by others, such as policy-makers, other industry sectors or civil society organisations, but we also need their support.
Together, we can accomplish great things.

Stefan Eingärtner, VinylPlus Deputy General Manager

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

PVC waste is a valuable raw material that should be recovered.

All the production waste of Deceuninck (www.deceuninck.be) is reprocessed into new products such as cyclefoam sound barriers made of recycled post-consumer PVC or recycled cladding with high end decorative film. The organisation also opened its own recycling centre where it organises and recycles cut-offs from window manufacturers and end of life PVC windows.

Deceuninck focuses its innovation efforts on designing and achieving the highest isolation for the lowest material consumption. Like the fiberglass reinforced Zendow#neo window that reachs 30% better insulation at 40% less weight.

Building a sustainable Europe

PVC is mainly used in construction and public works for window frames, pipes, fittings, flooring, cables and cladding.

Within the VinylPlus programme, our partners are collectively committed to greater environmental quality of PVC, aiming to multiply three-fold the recycling volume by 2020.

Full compatibility, consistency, strength and a guarantee of optimal quality are the reasons for selecting a PVC solution in the implementation of a Charmeil construction site in France - a site dedicated to the extension of a wastewater system for a new residential area.

“For this project, which involved creating network connections 2 meters deep before connecting to the existing network - itself located 4 meters deep, the PVC solution was the choice of the public procurer”, explained Raphael Alric, sanitation and water supply products manager from Wavin in France (www.wavin.com).

Le Havre in France also opted for a PVC solution when it decided to expand its tram network. The construction site called for an extension of the existing underground pipe network and Rehau PVC pipes and fittings (www.rehau.com) was a natural choice given its ease of use and resistance.

Do more with less. A simple yet revolutionary concept which lies at the heart of the more recent international policies aimed at promoting a genuine transition to a green economy. For the industry at large, and the PVC industry in particular, it implies a radical change in its modus operandi bringing about a continuous quest for improvements in the way its resources are obtained and transformed.

Catering to the public procurement sector

Public procurement authorities can set an influential example for industry and consumers alike whilst contributing to raising awareness about the importance of sustainable development.

In some countries public procurement professionals are legally required to take a comprehensive and measured approach when purchasing PVC products. These decisions have great impact at European, national and regional levels and hence even municipal choices can help setting the right precedent and lead by example when it comes to material choice.

In a study on the 'Total Cost of Ownership' (TCO), Professor Marangoni (Bocconi University, Italy) looked at three key PVC applications - windows, pipes and flooring - taking into account all costs associated with a product over its entire life-cycle. The results showed that PVC products provide the lowest 'whole life cost' in each of the application examined. Some public bodies have conducted their own TCO studies on PVC products and alternatives reaching similar results.

In Carmarthenshire, United Kingdom, a 7-year investment and refurbishment plan by the city council (started in 2005) saw the installation of PVC-U windows, doors, fascias, soft fittings and rainwater goods
for 1,620 residential properties. The municipality is also recycling up to 400 first generation PVC-U windows per week.

Also in the UK, Liverpool, the city council worked with Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) to install PVC-U windows with an 'A' energy rating. LMH Project Officer Jodie Powell said residents had remarked on how the new windows have made their homes much warmer and have improved the external appearance of the properties.

As reported by the Solinger Tageblatt, the use of PVC products for door and window systems is once again permitted in the renovated or newly built municipal buildings of Solingen in Germany.

The city's Finance Committee lifted a restriction passed by the Environment Committee in 1992 and in doing so, paved the way for PVC products.

According to the City Council, the installation of PVC windows and doors leads to savings of around 70,000 euros per year in comparison to other materials. These potential savings have been highlighted by the renovation of the Geschwister-Scholl- Gesamtschule secondary school, for which the use of PVC products will save around 385,000 euros.