Reporting on 2017 Activities
The table below consists of 5 key challenges that are relevant to developing the sustainable use of PVC. They were determined by The Natural Step's System Conditions for a Sustainable Society. Click through the table to learn about each challenge's subsections, and the work VinylPlus has put into each and every one of them.
Thanks to a moderate but continuous increase in volumes in nearly all European countries, PVC waste recycling within the VinylPlus framework reached 639,648 tonnes in 2017, a 12.5% increase on the previous year.
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 1.2 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 639,648 tonnes of PVC recycled in 2017 contributed to the creation of more than 1,200 direct jobs in recycling plants.
Recycling is a critically important aspect of the VinylPlus Programme especially given the increasing political importance of the Circular Economy Package adopted by the European Commission and its EU Plastics Strategy.
Regulatory constraints related to the presence of legacy additives still represent the major threat to recycling of post-consumer waste. There is evidence that both Pb (lead) and DEHP, present as legacy additives in recyclates, continue to impact recycling markets.
Therefore, the VinylPlus Controlled-Loop Committee (CLC) continued in 2017 to monitor the development and implementation of the EU regulatory framework and to give its technical support to ongoing discussions on recyclates containing legacy additives.
Recovinyl mission is to facilitate PVC waste collection and recycling, and encourage the use of recycled PVC, by acting as a mediator between recyclers and converters. Recovinyl also registers and certifies volumes of PVC recycled, based on the EUCertPlast protocol.
In 2017, Recovinyl underwent a significant reorganisation, both in its management structure and its data collection and reporting systems, to further improve its performance.
With a registered volume of 633,127 tonnes of recycled PVC waste, Recovinyl remained the main contributor to VinylPlus’ recycling target
During 2017, the biggest recycling markets registered different trends: volumes increased in France and Italy; the market remained almost stable in Germany; and recyclers reported a shortage of post-consumer window profiles for recycling in the UK.
More than 300,000 tonnes of window profiles and related building products were recycled in 2017, a 18% increase on the previous year. Of that total, about 40% of post-consumer and post-industrial windows, shutters and profiles were recycled in Germany, 30% in the UK and 30% in the rest of the EU-28. The Hybrid Project, launched by EPPA in 2016, was aimed at classifying the recyclability of PVC hybrid profiles currently found on the market. It assessed that while post-industrial hybrid waste is easily recognised, it is often quite complex to identify hybrid materials in post-consumer waste. The project will continue in 2018 with a focus on post-consumer waste, to determine how to facilitate the identification and design of hybrid PVC profiles. EPPA’s main activities in 2017 also included support to member companies applying for the VinylPlus® Product Label.
In 2017, TEPPFA continued its advocacy and communication activities. These promoted the use of U-PVC recyclates, as well as cooperation with recycling companies and quality certification institutes, focusing on the quality and longevity of pipe systems. The first indications from the 2017 annual report by VITO showed an increase in consumption of recycled rigid PVC by TEPPFA’s members over the previous year. Nevertheless, reaching the sector targets will depend on the regulatory environment for legacy additives. It might also be affected by the adoption of quality standards restricting the use of recycled PVC in some countries and some applications. TEPPFA continued its active participation in the NSRR (North Sea Resources Roundabout) project. The NSRR is an international voluntary agreement on secondary resources between France, Flanders, the UK and the Netherlands, which aims to remove barriers to cross-border activities. In 2017, TEPPFA mainly focused on finding a pragmatic solution to the end-of-waste (EoW) status of recycled rigid PVC in cross-border activities. In February 2018, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management issued a legal opinion approving EoW status for rigid PVC recyclates, complying with REACH, when leaving a recycler’s plant. TEPPFA is aiming for approval of the scheme by the European Commission, so as to achieve a harmonised approach throughout the EU, which would support the EU’s circular economy ambitions.
ESWA recycled 4,281 tonnes of roofing and waterproofing membranes in 2017 through its project Roofcollect®, in line with its targets.
ReVinylFloor is the new organisation set up to stimulate sustainable controlled-loop solutions for the recycling and recovery of post-consumer PVC flooring in Europe. It was established following the dissolution of EPFLOOR. ReVinylFloor collaborates with a network of partners active in fields including the production, collection, sorting, recycling, reprocessing and reuse of recycled materials in various applications. In 2017, 3,051 tonnes of post-consumer flooring were recycled.
The energy and material recovery trials for PVC flooring waste undertaken by Oreade-Suez in France continued in 2017. Oreade uses the SOLVAir® treatment system for the control of air emissions. The NaCl (salt) recovered through Flue Gas Treatment (FGT) is purified by Resolest and used in a Solvay plant to produce soda ash, thus replacing virgin NaCl. The process of Purification and Recycling of FGT wastes is being recognised as a Best Available Technique (BAT) in the BAT Reference Document for Waste Treatment.
9,034 tonnes of coated fabrics were recycled in 2017 within the operation of the EPCOAT project and Recovinyl. Film recycling (rigid and flexible) is reported this year in the category Flexible PVC and films.
Other Recycling Projects
In 2017, the recycling consortium Resysta® increased its number of members as well as its production volumes. The consortium produces a wood-like material based on rice husks and PVC, which is recyclable after use. Trials are now ongoing to test modified and new formulations (foamed materials). Activities continued to promote and communicate Resysta recycled applications.
Recomed is the partnership project between the British Plastics Federation (BPF) and Axion Consulting (the UK agent of Recovinyl) aimed at collecting and recycling non-contaminated PVC medical products from UK hospitals. Since its launch in 2014, RecoMed has constantly increased the number of hospitals involved in the scheme. So far, it has collected and recycled 5,556 kg of PVC waste (including 3,000 kg just in 2017), equal to 177,910 sets of oxygen masks and tubing. In June 2017, RecoMed was one of the winners at the National Recycling Awards, and in November it was named Best Recycling Project at the Chartered Institute for Waste Management’s Sustainability and Resource Awards. Feasibility analysis is ongoing to expand the project to Germany and, potentially, Italy and Spain.
WREP (Waste Recycling Project), a joint technical project led by PVC Forum Italia, was launched in 2016 to assess the improvement potential for PVC recycling in Italy and to promote the development of new pilot PVC waste collection and recycling schemes. After the completion of the analytical phase, in 2017 the project focused on identifying companies interested in taking part in pilot projects. Veritas, the major municipal multi-utility operating in the Venice area, and its subsidiary Eco-Ricicli confirmed their availability to start a pilot project with PVC Forum Italia in the Venice area in 2018. A pilot project for the recycling of PVC flooring was also initiated, involving a member of PVC Forum Italia that is active in recycling. In addition, in May 2017 PVC Forum Italia became a partner in a project coordinated by CMR (Renewable Matter Centre) aimed at developing solutions for the eco-efficient use of materials from building demolition. A preliminary proposal was presented to the Italian institutions by CMR in July.
In the framework of the VinylPlus joint technical projects, AGPU contributed to the project Plastic Recycling under REACH and End of Waste Regulations developed with the German consulting company Ökopol (Institute for Environmental Strategies in collaboration with several industry partners and the German Environment Agency (UBA). The project focused on four selected plastics waste streams containing classified substances – PVC windows, PVC floorings, EPS insulation sheets and PE crates. The objective was to produce in 2018 guidelines and a position paper on the correct recycling of waste that contains legacy additives.
In the framework of the Turquoise project, aimed at increasing the use of recycled soft PVC in France, Novafloor and its exclusive distributor I.déel developed 100%-recycled PVC products for indoor, outdoor and agricultural applications.
Legacy additives are substances that are no longer used in new PVC products but that can be present in recycled PVC. Since the use of legacy additives may be restricted by legislation, VinylPlus is committed to addressing the issue in cooperation with regulatory authorities.
Over the years, VinylPlus has contributed to discussions on legacy additives by supporting research and a considerable number of studies. In 2017, studies commissioned by VinylPlus focused particularly on lead, in relation to ECHA’s proposal to restrict the use of recyclates containing it. They covered modelling (by FABES) and risk assessments (by ARCHE Consulting) of lead migration, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of recycling PVC applications containing lead (by RDC Environment).
The FABES study Modelling Migration of Lead Compounds from Monolayer Unplasticised Polyvinylchloride Sewer Pipes connecting Houses with the Public Sewer System showed that the lead concentration in water decreases very rapidly after a few hours and that the total depletion of lead in a pipe takes “much more than 100 years”. Modelling on Lead Migration from Plasticised PVC into Water, another study by FABES, showed no difference in leaching amounts between thick and thin P-PVC samples. This is because, even in the thin P-PVC sample, the lead compound depletion did not reach the median area of the sample. A further FABES study, Modelling on Lead Migration from Various Rigid PVC Applications, provided data for the risk assessments of lead migration commissioned to ARCHE Consulting.
The study Risk Assessment of Lead Migration during Service Life of Articles containing Recycled PVC in a typical City of 10,000 Inhabitants by ARCHE Consulting concluded that “the local contributions due to combined leaching of lead from all uses of recycled PVC are negligible compared to the regional lead background concentrations for water, sediment and soil stemming from other sources”. It showed “the absence of risks for the environment and for indirect exposure of humans via the environment”. A second risk assessment by ARCHE aimed to determine the indirect exposure of children to lead through the environment. Results showed that this exposure is very low.
RDC Environment’s cost-benefit analysis of recycling PVC applications containing lead concluded that from the economic viewpoint, recycling PVC waste is environmentally preferable and more economically efficient than incinerating or landfilling it; that recycling PVC waste creates more jobs than incineration or landfill; and that the human health impact due to lead leaching from recycled PVC applications is small compared to the environmental, economic and job-creation benefits. To complete the socio-economic assessment, further analysis by RDC is in progress – of the cost-efficiency of avoided lead emissions without derogation and of the socio-economic impact of hazardous waste regulations applying to PVC waste.
ECHA is currently working on the restrictions under consideration for PVC containing lead compounds. ECHA’s initial proposal considered a threshold of 0.1% lead content for articles not containing recycled PVC. For some rigid building and construction articles produced from recycled PVC, there would be a 15-year derogation with a higher limit of lead content for articles using PVC recyclates containing it.
A public consultation was open from March to September 2017, and VinylPlus submitted extensive comments and information. These included the ARCHE Consulting risk analysis, the socio-economic study by RDC Environment and additional data based on measurements of lead in waste.
ECHA's Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) met in November 2017 to discuss proposals and comments. A public consultation on the SEAC draft opinion was open from 20 December 2017 to 20 February 2018.
EU Commission Regulation 494/2011 set a limit for polymers of 100 ppm of cadmium, with a derogation of up to 1,000 ppm allowed in specified rigid PVC construction products for cadmium originating from recyclates. These limits were scheduled to be reviewed by 31 December 2017.
In 2016, the European Commission asked ECHA to carry out a review of the cadmium restrictions by September 2017. As part of this review, ECHA contracted VITO, which had already in 2009 developed an impact assessment of various possible options to reconcile the recycling of PVC waste containing legacy cadmium with the restrictions of Annex XVII of REACH. The VITO study was completed in May 2017.
Organochlorine Emissions - Safe Transport
Organochlorine Emissions - Safe Transport
There were no transport accidents in Europe with VCM release in 2017.
PVC Resin Industry Production Charters
The Industry Charters suspension (VCM & S-PVC Charter) and emulsion (E-PVC Charter) PVC are aimed at reducing their environmental impact in the production phase. The last audit carried out by DNV at the beginning of 2012 showed 96% full compliance, 1% partial compliance and 1% non-compliance; 2% of all applications of the standards could not be verified.
The resin industry is continuing to work on – and is committed to – achieving full compliance by the end of 2020.
Pb (Lead) Replacement
Sales by ESPA members of lead-based stabilisers in the EU-28 market ceased in December 2015. The recycling of rigid PVC articles produced after this date is thus no longer affected by lead legacy issues, and the average lead concentration in mixed streams of pre- and post-2015 recyclates is constantly decreasing.
European Plasticisers’ (former ECPI) estimates confirm a positive trend in Europe for High Molecular Weight (HMW) orthophthalates, cyclohexanoates, terephthalates and other plasticisers, accompanied by a progressive decline in the use of Low Molecular Weight (LMW) orthophthalates.
Studies and Research
In 2017, European Plasticisers started a scientific project, co-funded by VinylPlus, to develop a PBPK (physiologically based pharmacokinetic) model for DINP. PBPK models are used for risk assessments to determine the concentrations of chemicals and drugs in tissues following uptake from relevant sources of exposure (e.g. oral). Work on the PBPK model for DINP will continue in 2018, as well as model development for further plasticisers such as DPHP/DIDP, DINCH, DEHT, DEHA and DINA. PBPK models will put into perspective epidemiological studies dealing with the association between exposure and symptoms and support the demonstration of safe use of plasticised PVC.
In 2017, the European Pharmacopoeia proposed four additional plasticisers (DINCH, BTHC, TOTM/TEHTM and DOTP/DEHT) for inclusion in its texts, so as to provide medical device manufacturers and users with alternatives to DEHP whenever possible – for example for blood bags, tubing for transfusions and containers for aqueous solutions.
Following the proposal to restrict DEHP, BBP, DBP and DiBP submitted to ECHA by the Danish competent authorities in April 2016, RAC and SEAC opinions were issued in June 2017. European Plasticisers supports restrictions for non-authorised uses of DEHP, DBP, BBP and DiBP consistent with a level-playing field for EU manufacturers and importers.
The Danish EPA submitted a dossier to ECHA in 2016, proposing that DINP be classified as toxic for reproduction under the CLP Regulation. A public consultation ended on 19 May 2017, and European Plasticisers, together with a number of other industry associations, companies and independent scientists, submitted extensive comments in support of non-classification. Based on the weight of evidence of all data and on the most recent publications, European Plasticisers concludes that DINP does not warrant a classification. In its opinion, issued in March 2018, “RAC agreed not to classify DINP for reproductive toxicity”.
The European Commission in April 2016 granted Authorisation for the use of DEHP in recycled soft PVC. Authorisation for the manufacture of virgin DEHP is still pending.
'Sustainable use of additives'
Criteria for the ‘Sustainable Use of Additives’
A methodology named ASF (Additives Sustainability Footprint) has been worked out by the VinylPlus Additives Committee together with The Natural Step, to develop a systematic framework to evaluate the use of additives in PVC products from the perspective of sustainable development.
The ASF builds on available life-cycle information and informed analysis by industry experts to provide a qualitative screening assessment of the relative performance of additives in relation to a science-based definition of sustainability (both social and environmental). The methodology is compatible with schemes such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and Product Environmental Footprints (PEF). But it takes a wider perspective, giving a clear picture of where to aim and how to improve the sustainability performance of additives.
In 2017, the first ASF was completed for window profiles in joint work with EPPA, and it was included in the VinylPlus® Product Label scheme. ESPA continued working on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for liquid mixed-metals stabilisers (used in flexible PVC applications). Contacts are ongoing with ReVinylFloor to start work on an ASF for the flooring sector.
Sustainable Use of Energy and Raw Materials
PVC resin producers are committed to reducing their energy consumption for the production of EDC, VCM and PVC, targeting a 20% reduction by 2020.
In 2012, the Energy Efficiency Task Force agreed with the ECVM Production Committee to adopt as a baseline the data collected by IFEU for the 2009 energy benchmarking (for energy consumption in 2007-2008). In 2014, IFEU collected ECVM members’ energy consumption data for 2012-2013 on behalf of VinylPlus.
The results of the first verification showed an average 10.2% decrease in the energy used to produce one tonne of PVC in 2012-2013 compared to the 2007-2008 baseline. A new verification is currently ongoing with IFEU on ECVM members’ energy consumption data for 2016-2017.
Converters, too, are striving to increase their energy efficiency. However, due to the complexity and variety of operations in the converting sectors, an overall target would be meaningless, as would targets for many of the subsectors. So, PVC converters are committed to reporting annually their gains in energy efficiency.
The evaluation of the data available for each EuPC sector group to assess PVC converters’ energy consumption continued in 2017. Following the assessment of energy consumption by EPPA and TEPPFA members (reported in last year’s Progress Report), work continued in 2017 for IVK and ERPA members. Data collection proved very difficult due to significant differences in product and production processes, and to the lack of available data before 2010. Nevertheless, about one third of IVK and ERPA member companies provided useful and comparable data, covering about 20 production plants for flexible and rigid PVC films.
The analysis of energy consumption, measured over the period 2010-2016, showed an average saving of 20.3% per tonne of PVC product.
In 2012, VinylPlus established an ad hoc Task Force to assess the available methods to measure environmental and sustainability footprints and to recommend suitable footprint measurements. As reported in previous years, Task Force identified the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) approach currently under development as a promising start. VinylPlus will continue to monitor developments in the EU PEF and will consider potential VinylPlus Sustainability Footprint metrics after the completion of the EU Environmental Footprint transition phase.
The Monitoring Committee is the independent body that guarantees openness, transparency and accountability in VinylPlus' initiatives while providing advice, comments and suggestions. It met twice in 2017, in April and in December.
As part of the Voluntary Commitment, progress, developments and achievements are published annually in a Progress Report. The Progress Report 2018 has been independently verified by SGS, while tonnages of PVC waste recycled and expenditure have been audited and certified by KPMG. The Natural Step made a commentary on the overall work and progress of VinylPlus.
The Progress Report is directly distributed to national and European institutions, including the European Commission and to interested parties. It is used in conferences and events and is available for download on this website.
External Stakeholder Dialogue and Communication
VinylPlus is committed to raising awareness of sustainability at all points on the value chain, as well as among other stakeholders – whether they be inside or outside the PVC industry. VinylPlus also promotes frank and open dialogue with all stakeholders, third parties, institutions and organisations in different communities – technical, political and social.
In 2017, VinylPlus undertook a process of rebranding to reinforce awareness and the recognisability of the organisation.
VinylPlus attended IdentiPlast 2017, the 13th International Conference on the Recycling and Recovery of Plastics. VinylPlus information materials, including brochures and an advertorial, were made available to participants. The conference was held in Vienna, Austria, in February.
In March, VinylPlus participated in the Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference 2017, co-organised by the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee, in Brussels, Belgium. At the conference, the European Commission introduced the EU Plastics Strategy and discussed key deliverables in the implementation of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan with stakeholders.
VinylPlus also took part in the Plastics Recycling Show (PRS) Europe 2017, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. PRS is the annual exhibition and conference for plastics recycling professionals organised by PRE.
In April, more than 530 delegates from 43 countries gathered in Brighton, UK, at PVC 2017, the triennial conference of the global vinyl industry. Brigitte Dero, General Manager of VinylPlus, gave the opening keynote speech focused on how a united PVC industry, involving the entire value chain, is showing the way for the wider plastics industry. VinylPlus also contributed to the technical sessions with two presentations, one on difficult-to-recycle PVC waste and the other on PVC resins Eco-Profiles and EPDs.
With the theme Towards Circular Economy, the 5th VinylPlus Sustainability Forum in Berlin, Germany, in May, brought together over 150 stakeholders from academia, government bodies, the UN, the European Commission, NGOs, retailers, architects, designers and all sectors of the PVC industry. Discussion focused on policies for the Circular Economy, both regional and Europe-wide, and their potential impact on the plastics industry. The many growing opportunities for the PVC sector to contribute to this key objective of EU policy were also explored.
The fourth Partnering for VinylPlus Communication Event was held in Brussels, Belgium, in June, to share best practices and a common vision for VinylPlus communications. Around 30 representatives from the VinylPlus Communications Committee, the PVC Network and sector groups linked to VinylPlus attended the event.
In September, VinylPlus contributed to the PlasticsEurope Innovation Conference – Innovation for a Circular and Resource Efficient Europe with Plastics, organised in Brussels, Belgium, with a presentation on PVC recycling.
In November, VinylPlus participated in the International Conference on Circular Economy in Automotive Industries held in Bratislava, Slovakia, and contributed a presentation on Cooperation through the Value Chain to enable the Circular Economy: The Case of PVC. The conference was co-organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Ministries of Environment and Economy of the Slovak Republic, to promote the transition to a circular economy in the automotive industry.
VinylPlus also participated in EUROCITIES 2017, the annual conference of the network of major European cities (www.eurocities.eu), which took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in November. It focused on Circular Cities and provided an opportunity for VinylPlus to network and explore possibilities for cooperation.
Every year VinylPlus co-funds a range of projects with the aim of expanding the scope of its communications activities. Ten projects were implemented in 2017, by three European industry sector organisations and five national PVC associations.
Cooperation Agreement of the Social Partners of the European Chemical SSDC and VinylPlus on the European PVC Industry
Following the formal signature of the agreement on 24 February 2017 between VinylPlus and the European Chemical Sectoral Social Partners (SPs, made of ECEG and industriAll Europe) under the umbrella of the EU Commission Decision 98/500/EC promoting the dialogue between the SPs in the sectors at European level, the signatories developed a concept note identifying priority actions in the areas of health and safety, education and training, knowledge transfer and sector evolution.
The agreed concept was presented by Brigitte Dero, General Manager of VinylPlus, at the Social Partners’ plenary meeting on 8 December 2017 which brought together representatives from ECEG, industriAll Europe, national associations in the chemical sector, DG EMPL, DG GROW and DG ENV.
Two priority works, directly linked to the Social Partners’ Roadmap 2015-2020, emerged from the follow-up discussion at the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee’s expert group meeting for chemical industry on 22 February 2018 in Brussels:
- Health and safety: analysis of available information, focus on converters and recyclers, identification of knowledge gaps and subsequent studies.
- Sector evolution: PVC value chain contribution to the research study on digitalization and innovation launched by ECEG and industriAll Europe within the European project VS/2017/0358, entitled The impact of digital transformation and innovation in the workplace: a sector-specific study of the European chemical, pharmaceutical, rubber and plastics industry in Europe.
Download the Cooperation Agreement
VinylPlus actively shares experience, knowledge and best practices with the other regional PVC associations at a global level. VinylPlus participated in Vinyl India 2017 in April, the 7th International PVC & Chlor-Alkali Conference in Mumbai. It also participated in the bi-annual meetings of the GVC (Global Vinyl Council), in Berlin, Germany, in May and in Florida, USA, in November.
The European PVC industry’s Voluntary Commitment was included in the Rio+20 Registry of Commitments in 2012 and VinylPlus is now registered as a SMART partnership on the UN Partnerships for the SDGs Platform. Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, VinylPlus assessed its contribution on the basis on the SDG Compass approach and started to report it in its Progress Report last year. In 2017, VinylPlus continued to engage in a proactive dialogue with UN bodies and organisations.
In 2017, Christophe Yvetot, UNIDO Representative to the European Union, participated as key note speaker at the VinylPlus Sustainability Forum