The industry has a hierarchical preference for managing PVC at the end of its lifecycle.
Mechanical recycling makes economic sense if sufficient quantities of homogeneous, clean and sorted waste can be made available. In these cases, the quality of the recovered materials allows recycling to produce identical or similar products.
A number of mechanical recycling projects for PVC are currently underway across Europe. They are extensively described on VinylPlus’ website.
To a limited extent, mechanical recycling of mixed plastic waste is also possible, and the PVC industry is dedicated to improving its scope by working on developing thesorting and recycling techniques currently used.
Feedstock recyclingFeedstock recycling breaks down PVC into feedstock components, making it a complementary process to mechanical recycling and more efficient for processing mixed or contaminated materials. The polymer is decomposed at high temperatures and the chemical components are recovered. In the case of PVC-rich feedstock, hydrochloric acid (HCl) is the main component recovered. It is then re-used in the PVC production process as a raw material. Some processes also recover hydrocarbon.
Incineration with energy recoveryThrough incineration with energy recovery, the calorific value of oil or gas used in PVC production can be used at least twice. PVC consumer products that, at the end of their life, are submitted into controlled municipal incinerators, reduces the need for fuel and reduces the amount of PVC going to landfill. A number of independent studies have demonstrated that, PVC does not increase the generation of potentially harmful emissions in the presence of natural chlorine in waste. Modern incinerators are operated to the highest standards and equipped with pollution control equipment that minimises the release of emissions.
Safe disposalWhatever the nature of the PVC recovery process, there is always a residual fraction of waste which is not recyclable. For this small portion, controlled landfill still remains a disposal option in the absence of other solutions. The findings of independent studies have confirmed that the presence of products containing PVC in landfill does not constitute a significant risk to the environment.
Authors: Johannes Kreißig, Dr. Martin Baitz, Jochen Schmid, Prof. Peter Kleine-Möllhoff (Reutlingen University) and Dr. Ivo Mersiowsky (Tu Tech Hamburg). Download executive summary.
The study gives various data on municipal incineration (MSW) and describes the methodology to calculate the total incineration costs and allocate costs to specific products. In particular, the study shows that in the average European situation, the PVC total incineration cost is similar to other high calorific waste products and represents around 2.3% of the total MSW cost.
This study highlights that its main effect is on the cost of the gas treatment attributable to PVC. It can be evaluated as a marginal cost and mainly related to the neutralisation of the chlorine content.