PVC in the New Plastics Economy report

08 Feb 2017

The World Economic Forum report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on The New Plastics Economy published on 16 January 2017 recommends a “fundamental redesign” in plastics packaging including a reduction in the variety of plastic types used, especially for “uncommon plastic” packaging materials, to allow wider economies of scale for sorting and recycling. In so doing, the report largely ignores the specific performance requirements which individual plastics fulfil in packaging. For example, PVC is used in some packaging applications for the specific properties, benefits and performance it provides, such as:

  • Its superior oxygen and water vapour barrier makes PVC a material of choice to package pharmaceuticals and some types of food such as fish. The oxygen barrier delivered by PVC prevents the growth of microorganisms in such sensitive applications, which must resist changes in air humidity and temperature to avoid wasting valuable food and medicines.
  • Its radiation sterilisation and resistance to pressure make PVC an excellent material to pack syringes and hospital supply as these require perfect hygiene to guarantee patient and staff safety. 

These properties, along with many others have made PVC a much needed plastic for modern day packaging to protect and preserve products such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and specific foods.

VinylPlus advocates that PVC should be recycled where it brings environmental benefits and is economically viable, as it is a highly recyclable material. VinylPlus demonstrated a few years ago in a specific packaging recycling project that PVC packaging can actually be recycled and that polymer separation technologies do exist.

Michel Py, owner and General Manager of VinylPlus partner CIFRA, explains “Our experience in France shows clearly that PVC packaging can very well be recycled if the various polymer fractions would be sorted out and guided towards certified plastics recyclers in Europe.”

Furthermore, a European Commission Communication (January 2017) makes clear that energy recovery has its place in the circular economy . Indeed, energy recovery applied with the highest standards can be a valid end-of-life solution for mixed plastics waste (including PVC packaging).

Dr. Brigitte Dero, General Manager
+32 (0) 2 676 74 41