PVC alone and its products have unique characteristics. Products may maintain these characteristics unchanged for many years, even for 70 years and more in certain applications. In this respect, PVC is unrivalled among plastic materials. Therefore the greater part of PVC is processed for technical products in the building industry where their long service life is a basic requirement.
When the product comes to the end of its service life and replaced with a new one, it would not be economical to dispose it on a waste site. Chemical structure of PVC enables that its products are very suitable for recycling after expiration of their service life. There are two environmentally friendly recycling methods available: physical and chemical.
In physical recycling, the old PVC products (such as window frames, pipes, etc.) are sorted out mechanically to smaller parts that are processed further using various technologies. The objective is to eliminate impurities and thus obtain the pure material. The result of this physical recycling is ether a fine powder or small particles, the so-called granulate. Such recycled PVC product obtained (PVC-R) may then be processed into new products using ordinary plastic processing technologies, with the same characteristics as the original products.
Physical recycling is to a lesser extent used also by PVC processing companies. Edges, trims, and rejects from PVC production can be quite easily ground and reprocessed into products again. Therefore the manufacturer does not have to take the material to a waste site, protects the environment, and saves the production cost.
Chemical recycling is more suitable for strongly contaminated PVC waste, or PVC waste with other material content. In chemical recycling, the PVC waste is split (by heat in most cases) into original chemical components – molecules. From them, it is then possible to produce PVC in the powder form using the process called polymerisation.
Several companies in Europe operate in recycling of PVC products after expiration of their service life, and also several voluntary activities take place, the objective of which is to improve the efficiency of recycling technologies and increase the volume of recycled PVC. PVC manufacturers in Europe support recycling activities within the voluntary program of sustainable development VinylPlus.