Refers to a diverse range of substances that are added in the production of PVC, including both the polyvinyl chloride polymer as well as finished PVC compounds. A few additive substances are required for the polymerisation process. Various additives stabilize the structure of PVC against heat, impact or long-term exposure to light, granting PVC a long-term life and then helping its easy reprocessing through mechanical recycling. Other additive substances provide a range of functional, aesthetic and other desired performance properties. Plasticisers, for example, make PVC flexible. Additives may often be introduced into the compounding process as ‘one pack systems’, comprising a range of additives providing a particular set of properties in the finished PVC compound.
Refers to the combination of additives themselves as well as the related production and processing techniques and eventual recovery systems needed for managing additives throughout the PVC life cycle.
The use of cadmium in stabiliser systems was discontinued in March 2001 in the EU-15, as part of the Vinyl 2010 Voluntary Commitment. The commitment was later on extended to the EU-27 and the phase-out completed in 2007. This means that since 2001 no member of the European Stabiliser Producers Association (ESPA) is placing such products in the EU-27 (now EU-28), Norway and Switzerland, while EuPC (European Plastics Converters) advises its members not to use cadmium-based stabilisers.
This concept refers to the efficient use and control of PVC and all related additives throughout their entire life cycle including at the end-of-life/recycling/reuse. VinylPlus commits not only to support the collection of PVC for recycling, but also to facilitate and help in the development of the markets required to absorb the recycled PVC material.
Environmental Product Declaration ( EPD )
An EPD is a standardised way of quantifying the environmental impact of a product or system. Declarations include information on the environmental impact of raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, content of materials and chemical substances, emissions to air, soil and water and waste generation. An Environmental Product Declaration is externally verified and in a uniform and internationally recognised format.
Lead replacementIn spite of the absence of identified risks, ESPA and EuPC committed, in 2000, to replace lead-based stabilisers by the end of 2015. Thanks to intensive effort and significant investment, the consumption of lead-based stabilisers has decreased by more than 80% in the EU-27 at the end of 2013.
Legacy additives define substances legitimately used in the past but now restricted or subject to authorisation. Legacy additives incorporated in PVC-based products in current use and reaching end-of-life also present a clear challenge when striving for the sustainable use of additives (as well as addressing other PVC sustainability challenges).
This exposes potential conflicts, for example, between restricting hazardous substances yet ensuring that these constituents in end-of-life PVC products do not inhibit their reuse in recycled products. In most cases, the recycling of PVC (manufacturing new PVC articles from those that have reached the end of their useful life) represents the most efficient way to reduce pressure on raw material and energy inputs.
Doing so may also comply with TNS System Conditions where legacy substances contained in used PVC article (including for example some heavy metals that are no longer permitted in the manufacture of virgin PVC) remain embedded into the PVC matrix of new articles, and hence do not contribute to systematic accumulation in nature.
To minimise such dilemmas in the future, robust selection criteria are required to help us select the best additive raw materials based on comprehensive information provided by the suppliers, whilst also recognising that stepwise progress will be necessary leading strategically towards the longer-term goal of achieving full sustainability.
The participating companies in VinylPlus are aware of the concerns expressed by stakeholders on the possibility that, if proper precautions and systems are not in place, organochlorines (dioxins, furans, etc.) can be released during some steps of the manufacturing process of PVC resin or during inappropriate end-of-life treatment of PVC. VinylPlus is committed to address any concerns related to the release of persistent chlorinated organic compounds and minimise any possible emissions.
A certification label to identify individual PVC products or ranges of products that fulfil a series of sustainability criteria defined in collaboration with BRE Global and The Natural Step. The key objective for the VinylPlus / product scheme is to help companies market successfully "sustainable PVC solutions". The scheme should also encourage the industry to make VinylPlus a part of their daily business life, develop new solutions and improve existing products.
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.
PVC & sustainability
In Europe, the PVC industry acknowledges that a set of challenges needs to be addressed to improve both the sustainability performance of PVC as well as its potentially significant contribution to society. Sustainable development is now widely recognised as an urgent priority for the future of humanity. PVC can play a positive role by offering durable, light and affordable infrastructures, improving energy efficiency of buildings, providing safe medical and electrical applications, etc.
Established in 2003, Recovinyl is an initiative by the European PVC value chain aimed at facilitating PVC waste collection and recycling under the Voluntary Commitments of Vinyl 2010 and now VinylPlus. Recovinyl’s has evolved from an incentives scheme to certification body for recyclers and converters to accredit the production and use of recycled PVC. The goal is to consolidate and increase the steady supply of post-consumer and post-industrial PVC waste being recycled in Europe by creating a demand for recycled PVC material from the converting industry. This is known as the “Pull Market Concept”.
Recycled waste streams may contain cadmium. The placing on the market of polymers containing cadmium is restricted by an amendment (Regulation 494/2011 of 20 May 2011) of Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation. This amendment allows higher cadmium content in rigid construction products if the cadmium originates from recycling. The industry is working with the regulatory authorities to ensure that recycling activities remain sustainable while complying with the regulatory regime. www.sdsrtool.com is an online database of polymers and applications to support PVC recyclers to comply with the European REACH Regulation.
Recycling plants in Europe
There are currently more than 100 operations in Europe which recycle PVC pipes, profiles, flooring, coated fabrics and membranes. The European PVC industry is committed to further increase this number.
"Recycled PVC is a discarded PVC product, or a semi-finished product, that is diverted from waste for use within a new product; processing waste is included provided it cannot be reused in the same process that generated the waste."
Sustainable use of additives
Refers to the selection and management of additives for use in PVC applications in a sustainable manner as defined in the VinylPlus programme and the TNS System Conditions. Additives must contribute to a sustainable society through providing functionality (flexibility, durability, recyclability, etc.) to materials that help support diverse human needs (e.g. water, food, shelter, housing, etc.) within the sustainability boundaries of TNS’ System Conditions.
TNS sustainability criteria
While written to be clear scientifically, the four system conditions can be confusing to non-scientists. They can be reworded as basic sustainability principles that provide explicit guidance. In short, to become a sustainable society we must:
- Eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of substances extracted from the Earth's crust
- Eliminate our contribution to the progressive buildup of chemicals and compounds produced by society
- Eliminate our contribution to the progressive physical degradation and destruction of nature and natural processes;
- Eliminate our contribution to conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their basic human needs
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'. Online
VinylPlus Voluntary commitment
Building on the success of the Vinyl 2010 programme, the founding members (ECVM, ECPI, ESPA and EuPC) decided to sign a new Voluntary Commitment in 2010 to continue the work under the name of VinylPlus. The programme was developed bottom up in industry workshops and through an open process of stakeholder dialogue. Five key sustainable development challenges have been identified for PVC, together with a set of specific objectives and working principles.
- Total waste is all the PVC waste generated from all sectors at end-of-use and which also include post-industrial waste.
- Available waste is PVC waste that is theoretically available to waste streams. It does not include 'not available' waste such as pipe abandoned in situ.
- Collectable waste is PVC waste that can be reclaimed, graded and transported for recycling. It does not include some elements of available waste that are not economically or technically feasible to collect or recycle. This is a variable proportion that depends on the specific recycling system used.