The Contribution of PVC to Sustainability

by Roger Mottram, INEOS ChlorVinyl

Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is one of the most widely used polymers in the world. Due to its versatile nature, PVC is used extensively across a broad range ofindustrial, technical and everyday applications.

PVC is most frequently made from salt (57%) and oil (43%), however in some regions of the world PVC is made without using oil feedstock at all (substituting oil-derived hydrocarbon with bio-derived hydrocarbon feedstock). PVC is therefore far less oil-dependent than other thermoplastics. It is also highly durable and energy efficient across a range of applications, which makes for an extremely effective use of raw materials.

PVC products offer significant value to society through the wealth of applications in which they are used.


Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) has many possible applications in the modern world including in construction, healthcare and automotive. Indeed, we would struggle to live day-to-day without plastics, and more specifically, without PVC. The same is true in sport where PVC can fulfill a number of roles in sporting stadia, equipment and accessories.

In celebration of the role that PVC can play at sporting events, the Vinyls Group have produced a brochure highlighting the use of PVC products in the construction of sporting venues, as well as the diverse range of PVC product applications for performance sports surfaces, sports equipment and clothing. The creation of the brochure has been prompted by the sporting events which are being held during 2012 and 2014 in London and Glasgow respectively.

nearly 600,000 tonnes of PVC recycled in 2016

The recycling of PVC has reached a new high with 568,696 tonnes recycled in 2016 through the framework of VinylPlus, the European PVC industry sustainable development programme. The latest results were announced at PVC 2017 by Brigitte Dero, VinylPlus General Manager, who opened the conference in Brighton on April 25th.

The triennial event is the world’s largest PVC forum providing information, education, debate and discussion on key topics for the industry.

Speaking on the first day, Brigitte highlighted how the achievements of the VinylPlus Voluntary Commitment to sustainable development over the past two decades had helped to turn PVC from ‘the black sheep in the plastic family to a pioneer’ and a material of choice.

She stated: “VinylPlus is now recognised by external stakeholders and is considered by many as a frontrunner for the circular economy. We reached this position by achieving significant and concrete results and have consistently demonstrated our commitment through action.”

A cumulative total of more than 3.5 million tonnes of PVC has been recycled since 2000 thanks to the efforts of VinylPlus. The largest volumes are from window profiles, followed by cables and flexible applications, pipes and fittings. The target is to recycle 800,000 tonnes per year by 2020.

VinylPlus places ‘paramount importance’ on the safety and quality of recycled PVC, which is supported by traceability and certification schemes for recyclates. With recycling increasing year-on-year, work is underway to include schemes like EuCertPlast as standard criteria for secondary raw materials. This would stimulate demand and help to prevent the loss of these valuable materials from a circular economy.

“Having recycled nearly 600,000 tonnes of PVC last year, we have demonstrated through the VinylPlus Voluntary Commitment that we can divert from landfill significant volumes of PVC waste, thereby contributing to resource efficiency,” continued Brigitte.

Other recent achievements include the development of an Additives Sustainability Framework - a new science-based system for assessing the sustainable use of additives in PVC products. The first ASF is almost complete for window profiles.

Brigitte explained how VinylPlus provides solutions to a ‘number of issues’ highlighted in the EU discussion on Plastics Strategy and the vision that ‘all plastics should be designed, manufactured and used in a sustainable manner, while increasing their durability’.

Concluding, Brigitte Dero said: “VinylPlus has made successful progress across all challenges identified in the Voluntary Commitment increasing the sustainability performance of PVC. This is thanks to the efforts of many companies delivering quality products (virgin and recyclates) safely.

“Our journey continues to address all concerns and engage the PVC industry towards sustainability as a whole through dialogue and practical partnerships. The united PVC industry shows the way!”

VinylPlus is the renewed ten-year Voluntary Commitment of the European PVC industry. The programme establishes a long-term framework for the sustainable development of the PVC industry by tackling a number of critical challenges in the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland. 

Saving energy and CO2 emissions doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Being clever with the materials we choose is a much simpler option. PVC is one of our most common and reliable plastics. It's also an extremely smart material that allows significant energy savings without extravagant investments or complicated technology.