PVC from A to Z


For more than 50 years, PVC has been very successful throughout the world. Today, this

versatile material is one of the most important plastic materials recognised internationally

and proven on the market.

PVC has distinguished itself especially with its wide range of

applications. PVC products are often cost-effective in terms of

purchasing and maintenance. At the same time, they contribute

more and more to sustainable development throughout their

entire life cycle: this occurs by means of state-of-the-art manufacturing

and production methods, the responsible use of energy

and resources, cost-effective manufacturing and processing,

as well as numerous recovery possibilities. This progress has

led to a continuous increase in the demand for this plastic

material. Moreover, through cost-effective PVC products, society

saves money which can be spent on sound ecological and

social investments.

Processing in Europe

PVC processing1 in Europe is at 4.9 million tonnes per year.

Thus, PVC is one of the most important plastic materials after

the polyolefins polypropylene and polyethylene, which have a

50% of the market share. The outstanding importance of PVC

is documented in the chart on the right.

International Growth

Worldwide, PVC is in a class of its own. Vinyl is in third place

among distributed plastic materials. All predictions point towards

the continued growth of plastic materials2 as well as of


PVC processing has increased comparatively slower in Europe.

A high degree of market penetration has already been achieved

in this sector. Nevertheless, growth has been registered even at

this high level: this is an indication of the major importance of

this high-performance plastic material.

Large Manufacturers supply the Market

The concentration of suppliers varies according to continent.

In China, a large number of small suppliers dominate. In North

America, on the other hand, five major manufacturers control

88% of the market. In Western Europe, the five largest providers

supply 64% of PVC. Taking into consideration the capacities of

the largest manufacturers worldwide in 2009, Shin-Etsu is at

the top, followed by Formosa Plastics, Solvay, and LG Chemicals.

In terms of PVC specialities for paste processing, the situation

is somewhat different. Here, the Europeans claim the top three

positions,3 held by Vinnolit, Vestolit, and Solvay/SolVin.

Processing shaped by Medium-Sized Companies

The PVC-processing industry in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

is extremely efficient and predominantly characterised

by medium-sized businesses. It is very export oriented – just

like the plastics manufacturing industry. Several of these PVC

processors lead the worldwide market with their products. In

particular, these products consist of window profiles and rigid



PVC is one of the most important plastic materials in Europe and is in a class of its own

worldwide. The PVC industry has achieved enormous economic importance through its

extremely wide range of high-quality products. The prognosis shows continued growth.

Distribution of the plastics market

in the EU 27+2 for 2009 in percentage



The European PVC industry has consistently improved its manufacturing processes in recent

years. This is especially true for formulas. Thus, there have been considerable changes

in the use of stabilisers and plasticisers.

Synthesis of Crude Oil and Rock Salt

Crude oil/natural gas and rock salt are the starting products

for PVC manufacturing. Ethylene is the result of crude oil in

the intermediate stage of naphtha through thermal “cracking”.

Chlorine, on the other hand, is produced from rock salt through

chloralkali electrolysis. For this purpose the modern, energysaving

membrane process is commonly used today. Sodium

hydroxide and hydrogen are thereby produced as important

by-products. In turn, they are the raw materials for many other

syntheses. Vinyl chloride (VC) is produced from ethylene and

chlorine at a ratio of 43% to 57%. VC is the monomeric building

block of PVC. The transformation of VC to PVC takes place

through various technological processes.

Salt crystals are of essential importance in PVC production. It is made of 57 percent

salt, which is available on the planet in virtually unlimited amounts, and

43 percent crude oil.

Photo: Südsalz GmbH

films, as well as medical applications, membranes, and non-rigid

films. Approximately 1.6 million tonnes of PVC was processed

in Germany in 2009.

Important Economic Factor

In 2010, the German plastics industry earned 95 billion euros.

The 415,000 employees in the plastics industry work in approximately

7,100 different companies.4

The Swiss PVC industry contributes considerably to the success

of the entire plastics industry. It achieves an annual revenue of

approximately 14.4 billion Swiss francs with its 34,000 employees,

i.e., more than 10 billion euros in some 850 companies.The

Austrian plastics industry employs more than 26,000 employees

in approximately 600 companies and generates an annual

turnover of 5.8 billion euros. PVC plays a decisive role in this

economically important sector.

Everything about PVC 5


PVC products are derived from a white, odourless powder

which is mixed with additives for the further processing of

semi-finished and finished products. Such admixtures are not

only found in practically all plastics, but also in materials such

as glass, steel, concrete, etc.

Basically, the following additives are used:

• stabilisers and co-stabilisers

• lubricants

• polymer agents to improve tenacity, heat-and-form stability,

and processing performance

• fillers

• pigments

• plasticisers.

Additives facilitate processing and simultaneously determine

the properties of end products. The choice of additives depends

on processing procedures and demands on the finished

products. Depending on the choice of additives, PVC as a raw

material is developed into sturdy, thick-walled pipes for drinking

water or extremely thin, flexible film for packaging fresh

meat. Additives thereby provide a wide range of product properties.


The use of stabilisers guarantees sufficient heat stability for

PVC during processing and protects the end product from

change due to heat, UV-light, or oxygen. Especially inorganic

and organic salts of the metals calcium, zinc, barium, lead and

tin are added to PVC products. These salts are firmly anchored

in the polymer matrix. They are not released during the use of

these products. The use of stabilisers has undergone a significant

change in recent years. One reason for this was that the

European industry discontinued the sale and use of cadmium

stabilisers in all EU member states.

In addition, the European Stabiliser Producers Association

(ESPA) and the European Plastics Converters Association (EuPC)

agreed to the voluntary commitment “Vinyl 2010” in October

2001 to replace lead stabilisers. Several intermediate goals have

therefore been established (basis: consumption in 2000):

• 15 % reduction in 2005

• 50 % reduction in 2010

• 100 % reduction in 2015.5

The goal for 2010 was surpassed in 2008. The reduction of lead

stabilisers was already at ca. 76% in 2010. At the same time, the

research and development of alternative stabiliser systems in

recent years has made enormous stride at great financial cost.

In addition to systems based on calcium/zinc, whose market

share in Western Europe increased from 5% in 1994 to over

50% today, tin also plays an important role. Moreover, new developments

utilise metal-free organic stabilising systems.

The amount of thermal stabilisers used in mixtures has been

reduced in recent years through effective additives and more

exact engineering processes.

Recycled materials might contain cadmium and lead due to the

recycling of older products. This is permitted by law in order to

create incentives for the use of recycled materials.6 Directive

494/2011 by the EU Commission from 20 May 2011 regulated

the use of recycled materials containing cadmium.7

Visitors receive information about environmentally friendly membrane electrolysis

which saves an enormous amount of energy: it is an important measure in the

reduction of CO2 emissions.

Approximately 70% of PVC produced is used in Europe to

manufacture rigid products such as window profiles and pipes,

which are distinguished by their longevity and weather resistance.

The remaining 30% covers soft applications. Plasticisers

provide PVC with special properties of use similar to those of

rubber. This naturally hard material becomes flexible and elastic

through plasticisers. At the same time, it retains its shape.

Soft PVC can be applied to a wide range of products in various

ways. Pastes made of a mixture of PVC and plasticisers expand

the range of possibilities, e.g. by means of expressive vinyl wallpaper

or easy-to-clean flooring.

Soft PVC is distinguished by its outstanding properties of use

which offer a versatile range of possibilities. Flexible products

such as artificial leather, weather-resistant roofing membranes,

or flame-retardant cables enhance our lives and make them

safer and more comfortable. In medical care, soft PVC applications

have stood the test of time for decades. Blood bags, tube

systems, and wound dressings are essential components of

patient care. PVC products are even recommended for allergy

sufferers due to their compatibility.

The most frequently used plasticisers are esters from phthalic

acid. In terms of application, a change has taken place on the

European market in recent years in favour of high-molecular

weight plasticisers.

Special plasticisers have also become important economically

in the meantime. These include polymer plasticisers based on

adipic acid, adipates, terephthalates, and other phthalate-free

plasticisers such as Hexamoll® DINCH.10

In public discussions, phthalates are repeatedly linked to harmful

effects on humans and the environment. These generalisations

are not justified. Many phthalates differ from one another

considerably in terms of effect.

The short-chained phthalates (DBP, DIBP, BBP, DEHP), which are

low-molecular weight plasticisers or LMWs, have been classified

as toxic to reproduction, i.e. they are suspected of having an

influence on sexual function and fertility. As part of REACH, the

new European legislation on chemicals, these phthalates have

been listed as “substances of very high concern”. Their production

and application are subject to an approval process.

In contrast to LMWs, the phthalates DINP and DIDP, which are

high-molecular weight plasticisers or HMWs, have other properties.

These substances are not subject to labelling and may

be used for all present applications. DINP and DIDP are some

of the most researched substances in terms of toxicology and

ecology. The two plasticisers have undergone EU risk assessments

and evaluations with no objection. This ended a tenyear

process of extensive scientific evaluations by supervisory

agencies and legislators. In the Official Journal of the European

Commission from 13 April 2006, it was expressly confirmed that

no risks are expected from these substances for human health

and the environment.

In December 1999, the European Commission first issued a

three-month limited ban on the use of certain phthalates in

soft PVC for children’s toys which children under three years

of age place in their mouths according to their research.11 This

temporary measure resulted in a permanent legal regulation

(2005/84/EC) in January 2007. Accordingly, the plasticisers DEHP,

DBP, and BBP are neither allowed to be used in children’s toys

nor in any other items used for babies. However, DINP, DIDP

and DNOP12 may be used in children’s toys and baby products

which children do not place in their mouths. The technical description

is found in the guidelines of the European Commission

on the interpretation of the concept “which can be placed

in the mouth”. 13 The European Parliament made the decision

to limit the use of these phthalates exclusively on the basis of

the precautionary principle, not on the basis of toxicological




PVC can be processed into various products in a number of ways. The range extends from

heat-insulating, energy-saving windows to sturdy pipes and easy-to-clean floor coverings.

Approximately seventy percent of PVC materials are used in the building sector, many of

which are long-life products.

Extruder or Injection Moulding

PVC is one of the few polymers which can be processed thermoplastically

and by means of pastes.14 Thermoplastic processes

take place primarily on extruders or so-called screw

presses. The final products are pipes, profiles, sheets, tubes,

and cables.15 Film and floor coverings are created by means

of calenders (rolling mills). Fittings and casings are produced

in the injection moulding process and hollow bodies by blow


Emulsion and micro-suspension PVC is applied as a paste to

various soft PVC products such as tarpaulins, flooring, coverings,

and artificial leather. As an alternative, rotation moulding

is used to shape dolls and balls.

A Wide Range of Products

PVC can be used in numerous products due to its outstanding

properties and therefore is an integral part of our lives.

In Germany, approximately 70% of all PVC applications are intended

for the construction sector. In particular, this includes

window profiles, pipes, floor coverings, and roofing membranes.

PVC windows are weather resistant, durable, easy to clean, economical,

and recyclable at the end of their life cycles. Sturdy

pipes made of rigid PVC transport valuable drinking water,

drain roofs, and dispose of sewage water. They can be easily,

safely, and economically installed by means of structural and

civil engineering. Building products made of PVC are distinguished

especially by their longevity: this is a decisive criterion

for selecting the appropriate material.

Amount of processed PVC according

to the relevant sector in Europe in 2010



Used PVC products are too good to throw away. The European PVC industry has organised

a recovery system for the most important PVC products in order to save valuable

resources and has set ambitious goals for the future.

Increase in Recovery Quotas

The Arbeitsgemeinschaft PVC und Umwelt e.V. has commissioned

the Consultic Marketing und Industrieberatung GmbH

at regular intervals to compile data about PVC waste in Germany.

In 2007, the amount of PVC waste was approximately

563,000 tonnes (505,000 tonnes in 2005). This corresponds to

1–2% of the overall volume of household waste and industrial

waste similar to household waste. The share of post-consumer

waste from this amount was at 403,000 tonnes (360,000 tonnes

in 2005). Approximately 77,000 tonnes (60,000 tonnes in 2005)

of this amount were recycled mechanically and by feedstock

recycling. If production waste is included in these statistics,

the amount of recycled materials totals approximately 221,000

tonnes (180,000 tonnes in 2005). In actuality, the recycled

amount is even higher. “In-house recycling” is not included in

these statistics. During this process, the production waste generated

in converting machines is comminuted and then immediately


Based on the overall amount of waste (post-consumer and

production waste), the recycling quota is approximately 36%.

Additional PVC waste undergoes energy recovery through

state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology – primarily in waste

incineration plants. Since PVC has a calorific value similar to

that of brown coal (approximately 19 MJ/kg), the material

contributes positively to energy balance when incinerated in

household waste (approximately 11 MJ/kg).

Mechanical Recycling

Mechanical recycling has been used in PVC production and

processing for many decades. The largest part of unmixed

waste flows directly back into production. The PVC industry

has developed a number of initiatives for the recovery of postconsumer

waste which are now established on the market.

PVC construction materials make up the largest amounts in

waste management. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft PVC-Bodenbelag

Recycling (AgPR) and RoofCollect – the successor organisation

The collection and recycling of replaced PVC window systems is common practice

today. At the end of the process, modern heat-insulating windows are manufactured

which save energy and improve internal climate conditions.

Photo: Rewindo Fenster-Recycling-Service GmbH

Everything about PVC 9

of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für PVC-Dachbahnen Recycling

(AfDR) – handles this waste in Germany. Rewindo Fenster-Recycling-

Service GmbH has established a broad-based, take-back

system for windows. It works closely with its recycling partners

Tönsmeier Kunststoffe and VEKA Umwelttechnik. Since the beginning

of 2005, Rohr-Recycling in Westeregeln – a subsidiary

of the Tönsmeier-Gruppe – and Kunststoffrohrverband (KRV)

have established an alliance to increase the amount of materials

to be recovered. The new initiative takes back PVC pipes

throughout Germany and arranges for the recycling of used

products. Furthermore, the PVC industry in Germany cooperates

with the European initiative Recovinyl established by

“Vinyl 2010”.

In Austria, the industry initiatives ÖAKF for plastic windows

(Österreichischer Arbeitskreis Kunststoff-Fenster) and ÖAKR for

plastic pipes (Österreichischer Arbeitskreis Kunststoff-Rohre)

organise the return and recycling of used PVC materials. The

amounts collected in this manner are processed primarily by

Reststofftechnik GmbH in Salzburg.

Furthermore, the dissolving process VINYLOOP® developed

by Solvay allows the recycling of previously difficult-to-treat

composite materials (such as PVC/copper made from cable

remnants or PVC/polyester from used tarpaulins). Innovative

VINYLOOP® technology was launched after completion of a

ten-kiloton plant in the Italian city of Ferrara at the beginning

of 2002. Additional facilities are being planned.

Recycling possibilities are also available for packaging, cables,

credit cards, and mixed PVC waste. These offers and numerous

recycling products are listed in the PVC-Recycling-Finder of the

AGPU at www.agpu.com.

The PVC industry has contributed greatly towards a sustainable

economy with its forward-thinking, take-back and recovery systems

for used products.

Feedstock Recycling

Hydrogen chloride in pure form is obtained by thermally treating

PVC products. The hydrocarbon part in PVC is used to generate

heat and electricity in the same process. Hydrogen chloride

then goes back into PVC production.

Feedstock recycling differentiates between processes with and

without the limitation of chlorine. The recovery process without

the limitation of chlorine is especially suitable for soiled

and PVC-rich mixed plastic material fractions. The PVC industry

has been researching suitable forms of technology for the

feedstock recycling of PVC-rich waste streams since 1992.

The rotary furnace oven at the recovery plant at DOW/BSL in

Schkopau is technologically suitable for PVC-rich waste streams

in feedstock processes. PVC waste in solid and liquid form can

be recovered at this plant, which started operations at the end

of 1999. Through the thermal treatment of waste, the hydrogen

chloride separates when the released energy is used. Processed

into hydrochloric acid at the plant, it can be used again as a

raw material for the production of PVC.

In the production of calcium carbide at Alzchem Trostberg

GmbH in Hart, high calorific plastic fractions with a chlorine

content of up to 10% can be used. These waste materials are

used to increase the amount and calorific value of the resulting

carbide furnace gas.

Ecoloop, a subsidiary of Fels-Werke GmbH, employs a new

technology for the energy-efficient conversion of organic and

carbon-rich materials such as used wood or plastic into purified

syngas as an energy source. In the process, raw materials

with a chlorine content of up to 10% can be used.

Waste Incineration

Currently in Germany there are about 68 plants for the thermal

treatment of mixed municipal waste. They have an approved

total capacity of approximately 19 million tonnes at their disposal.

In the past, it was assumed that PVC contributed approximately

50% towards the chlorine input in waste incineration plants.

Today, this amount is estimated at about one-third (30–35%).

This reduction can be traced back to the recovery activities of

the DSD (Duales System Deutschland / “Der grüne Punkt”, etc.)

in the packaging sector, among other things.

The chlorine content in PVC is converted completely to HCl

during incineration and removed from the flue gas far below

the legally permitted emission limits as defined by prescribed

flue gas cleaning. The scrubber liquid is neutralised primarily

with burnt lime. The resulting calcium chloride is deposited.

Some waste incineration plants do not work with limestone

scrubbers. They neutralise with sodium hydroxide. This results

in a valuable saline solution.

In order to reduce the chlorine input, hydrogen chloride can

be separated from the flue gas as hydrochloric acid and used

again in chemical production. Five waste treatment facilities

in Germany – e.g. in Hamburg, Böblingen, Kiel, and Kempten –

work according to this principle.

Another possibility is offered by the NEUTREC process from

SOLVAY. Sodium chloride is recovered and purified with the

help of sodium bicarbonate in the flue gas purification of

incineration plants. Facilities used for the treatment of reaction

products containing sodium are in operation in Italy and


Built from recycled PVC materials, this yellow-framed platform at the bus stop

makes getting on the bus easier.

Photo: "Vinyl 2010"

10 Everything about PVC

The HALOSEP® process also offers the possibility of recovering

chlorine from waste incineration in the form of salt. Waste from

the flue gas purification of two major Danish waste incineration

plants was treated as part of a pilot program. In so doing, more

than 99% of the chlorine was recovered.

Dioxins and furans (PCDD/F) result from almost every incineration

process involving organic materials. The amount of these

undesired compounds depends heavily on the construction

and operation of the waste incineration plants.16 Remaining

emissions are minimized through steps towards flue gas purification

(adsorption filter). Since 2000, all European waste incineration

plants must emit less than 0.1 ng TEQ dioxin per m3

of exhaust gas, based on EU Directive 2000/76/EC.

Numerous investigations show that the PVC portion of household

waste does not effect the amount of dioxin formation

and thereby dioxin emissions.17 The complete sorting of PVC

products from waste does not alter the dioxin concentration

in exhaust gas. The reason is the salt content which is always

present in waste, for which food remnants among other things

are responsible.

No matter whether with or without PVC: there is no change

in compliance with the threshold value of 0.1 ng/m3. Thermal

and other control parameters in incineration have the greatest

influence on dioxin emissions. It would be better to discuss

exhaust gas rather than dioxins. Its toxicity is much higher

due to other pollutants. This is the case with the carcinogenic

substances PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as

benzo[a]pyrene) or fine dust particles. A holistic approach to

adverse effects is especially important for uncontrolled thermal

processes as seen in the following section.


The PVC industry arranges for a substantial portion of used PVC

to be recovered through various recycling initiatives (among

others to be found in the “PVC-Recycling-Finder” of the AGPU at

www.pvcrecyclingfinder.com) before the waste reaches refusederived

fuel (RDF) processing. In this manner, the chlorine content

of the fractions is reduced considerably for RDF processing.

The PVC share of “PVC-rich” fractions, which is sorted out during

RDF manufacturing, is usually only 5–15%.


PVC products stored in landfills are not harmful to human

health and the environment. Heavy metal stabilisers may in fact

reach the seeping water of landfills in small amounts, but are

more or less insignificant in comparison to heavy metals from

other sources in municipal waste. It is similar with plasticisers

which can migrate from soft PVC through micro-organisms.

They are broken down and do not lead to a toxically relevant

deterioration of the seeping water. This conclusion was reached

by an extensive international research project on the long-term

behaviour of PVC products in landfills and under ground. It was

conducted by the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg, the

University of Linköping, and Chalmers University in Göteborg

In principle, valuable materials such as plastics do not belong

in landfills. The depositing of untreated plastics and other organic

materials is outdated and is no longer permissible in

some European countries. Since January 2000, all organic waste

in Switzerland must be thermally treated in waste incineration

plants before reaching landfills. In Germany, a corresponding

regulation in the form of a ban on depositing organic waste

such as wood, paper, and plastics has been in effect since 2005

In Austria, the topic was dealt with in the same

way through the Landfill Ordinance of 2008.

Bags made from used lorry tarpaulins are not only modern; they also save valuable

resources by ideally making use of the longevity of the material.

Plastic materials and natural products can only catch fire if sufficiently

large ignition sources and oxygen are available. In the

process, aerosols and carbon black arise as well as gases which

flare up and react to oxygen.

The toxic properties of gases from burnt plastic materials are

comparable to those which result from the burning of natural

materials such as wood and paper. Numerous examinations

have shown that approximately 90–95% of deaths during fires

can be traced back to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. This

gas arises during every fire and kills without warning. In contrast,

hydrochloric acid (HCl) forces one to flee due to its pungent

odour, even in the smallest, harmless concentrations.

Smoke Gases

There are numerous discussions about carcinogenic smoke

gases besides the acute toxic fire gases (CO, HCN, acrolein, HCl,

etc.). They also are produced by every fire. Some of the most

important of this kind are PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)

and fine dust particles.

When materials containing chlorine such as PVC, or other plastic

and natural substances, catch fire, dioxins and furans may

result. These substances, however, bond strongly to the carbon

black particles created during a fire and therefore are not bioavaiable

to people, animals, and plants. In examining people

exposed to fire in contrast with those not exposed to fires,

higher levels of dioxins could not be determined. The same

conclusions were reached after PVC fires, e.g. in October 1992

in Lengerich/North Rhine-Westphalia, where several hundred

tonnes of PVC went up in flames.


Every smoke gas is corrosive due to high temperatures, humidity,

etc. If this gas contains additional acids (e.g. NOx, SOx, HCl,

acetic acid), that can increase the effect. When PVC catches

fire, a special corrosive smoke gas arises based on its chlorine

content – HCl. Recent studies show that corrosion – contrary

to the opinion of certain experts – in the case of fire does not

play a role in the feared outage of safety electronics because

it happens comparatively slowly over a long period of time.

Important reasons for the outage of safety electronics are short

circuits which result from electrically conducted soot residue.

The amount of economic damage due to corrosion depends

on the circumstances of the fire and the beginning of the renovation

work; it may increase if the renovation work takes place

at a later date. In the process, the overall economic costs show

that the economic advantages of using PVC are greater than

the possible damage from a fire. The replacement costs alone

for PVC cables in Germany would amount to approximately one

billion euros per year. These costs are therefore similar to renovation

costs (not only due to corrosion) for all fires in Germany



PVC products perform well ecologically as well as socially and economically. Essential for

this success are low life-cycle costs, longevity, and the recyclability of these high-quality


Evaluation of Sustainability

Sustainable development must be evaluated from ecological,

economic, and social perspectives. Assessments of individual

areas can be misleading. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft PVC und

Umwelt has held extensive dialogues with experts from the

economic sector, the sciences, environmental associations, as

well as with journalists about PVC. One result of this process

is the independent PROGNOS Study from 1999/2000 on the

sustainability of selected PVC products and their alternatives:18

it was the first study that dealt with the concept of “sustainable

development” for individual products. The result was a balanced

picture of PVC products with good results, but also with

open questions and the possibility for improvements, which

has led the way to a sustainable future for PVC.

Current information on the topic is summarised briefly below.

In so doing, ecological observations are based on LCAs and risk

assessments, for the entire life cycle of products of course.

Ecological Factors

Part of the ecological quality of products and services can be

determined by life-cycle observations. Risk assessments round

off the ecological quality. In order to evaluate sustainable development

reliably, social and economic factors must also be

taken into consideration.


Economic Factors

PVC products are distinguished by their longevity, low costs for

maintenance, and recyclability. Their life-cycle costs are correspondingly

low: this is a fact that has direct influence on their

market success. Consumers choose the more cost-effective

product with the same performance. They know that economic

resources are limited, just like all other resources, and try to use

them carefully for optimal benefits.

However, low life-cycle costs are also tied to ecological and social

factors in qualitative and quantitative terms. These savings

can therefore also be used for ecological and social objectives.

We see two possibilities in assessing costs and ecology simultaneously

in quantitative terms:

One possibility is to present the costs in addition to ecological

results such as in the eco-efficiency model at BASF. In this

example, ecological results are combined into one unit by standardisation

and importance and compared to the standardised


Another possibility is the direct combination of the two criteria,

which means a “compensatory” method. In so doing, possible

cost advantages between alternative products are used

to finance ecological improvements, such as steps for saving

energy or preventing climate effects. For example, a specific

calculation is available for PVC windows and alternatives. By

using approximately 1% of the product costs for a PVC window,

100% of the climate effect generated through this product

can be compensated:22 this is a small financial expenditure

with great effect. This “compensatory” method has been used

for years for “climate-neutral flights”.

Low life-cycle costs also have a positive effect on the social sector:

for example, the poor and many nations in the Third World

are now more likely to be able to afford low-priced products

e.g. in health and education.

On the other hand, the refusal of some communities to use

PVC means “more costs without any quantifiable ecological advantages”.

23 The additional costs resulting from the refusal can

in fact be calculated and no longer invested in sensible ecological

and social gains.24 PVC substitution without economic

and ecological basis can even lead to a deterioration of the

present situation, as determined by Enquête Commission25 and

the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).


Social Factors

For decades, PVC products have stood the test of time in almost

all areas of our daily lives. In the process, they have been

extensively researched and continuously developed in order to

offer high safety and quality standards: this extends from the

selection of raw materials and improved formulas to modern

manufacturing methods. The wide range of products satisfy demanding




The European PVC industry has achieved all the objectives of its voluntary commitment

“Vinyl 2010” and thereby has made a considerable contribution to the sustainable

development of its products. With the follow-up agreement “VinylPlus”, it will continue

this active involvement.

“Vinyl 2010”

After many individual improvements, the European PVC industry

has made important cooperative efforts in recent years

to master future challenges in terms of sustainable development.

European PVC manufacturers agreed on an industry charter in

1995 under the auspices of the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers

(ECVM). According to the charter, the signatories are

obligated to continuously reduce impact on the environment

in terms of “responsible care”. The results of the agreement are

specific emission limits in manufacturing S-PVC and vinyl chloride,

which fall below legally stipulated values.

In addition, the four major European associations

• ECVM (PVC manufacturers)

• ECPI (PVC plasticiser manufacturers)

• ESPA (PVC stabiliser manufacturers)

• EuPC (plastics converters)

signed the Voluntary Commitment of the European PVC Industry

on Sustainable Development in March 2000. An amendment

to this commitment followed in October 2001 entitled “Vinyl

2010”. 27 The initiative involves key questions in the individual

stages of the life of its products. The first part deals with the

manufacturing of basic materials: PVC, plasticisers, and stabilisers.

It describes continuous improvement in terms of environmental

impact and the use of resources. The topic of the second

section is the responsible and sustainable use of additives.

The admixture of additives contributes considerably to the innovative

development of PVC. The third section describes the

contribution made by the industry to disposing of products

responsibly at the end of their life cycles. The fourth section

extensively presents how the PVC industry would like to maintain

adherence to the various commitments. This is where the

availability of respective funds is explained. In 2003, a supervisory

body was brought together with representatives from the

EU Commission, EU Parliament, trade unions, and, somewhat

later, consumer associations. Representatives from environmental

associations were also invited, but they did not wish

to participate. Furthermore, a progress report was published

annually, showing the most recent findings on the path to sustainable

development. The final report for 2010 documented

the tremendous progress made in the past ten years in waste

management, recycling technologies, stakeholder engagement,

and the handling of additives. All the goals of “Vinyl 2010” were

reached or even surpassed.


The completion of “Vinyl 2010” also marks the beginning of the

new sustainability initiative “VinylPlus”28 which was launched

in the summer of 2011 and built on the success of the preceding

program. “VinylPlus” was developed in conjunction with

the international NGO The Natural Step (TNS) which is at the

forefront of research and dialogue about sustainable development.

The new initiative is based on five commitments with

the following goals: a quantum leap in recycling rates of PVC

and in achieving the development of innovative recycling tech-

26 This aspect of social sustainability is found in the method propagated by BASF

(SeeBalance), as well as in other sustainability labels such as those for bio-fuels.

27 Further information as well as the annual progress reports are found at


living. Savings from buying reasonably-priced products, on the

other hand, can be used to help promote further ecological

and social improvements; this is an effective contribution to

sustainable development.

In addition, optimising manufacturing and processing methods

guarantees good working conditions, which are also reflected

in job safety and a low accident rate.26

28 Detailed information on “VinylPlus” can be found at www.vinylplus.eu.

Everything about PVC 15

nologies, addressing concerns about organochlorine emissions,

ensuring the use of additives based on sustainability criteria,

increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies

and raw materials in PVC production, and promoting sustainability

throughout the entire PVC value chain. Transparency

and open dialogue with internal and external target groups

will be the focus of “VinylPlus”. In the process, the new commitment

places great emphasis on continuous dialogue with

stakeholders. As with “Vinyl 2010”, the PVC industry will publish

an independently verified and audited report, documenting

the progress of all goals established by “VinylPlus”.

Material of the Future

PVC is capable of playing an important role in sustainable

development. One prerequisite is that political decisions are

made based on proven criteria.

Considerable improvements in raw material and energy efficiency

have been established in the current ecological profiles

on manufacturing PVC.29

The low life-cycle costs of many PVC products allow for the

financing of important ecological and social improvements.

Progress in recycling and disposal has greatly resolved the

problem of waste. Many formerly, fiercely-debated topics concerning

risk (substitution of problematic additives) could be

defused. This has lead to a scientific and political re-evaluation

of PVC.30

are economically, ecologically, and socially “competitive”.

PVC offers many positive prerequisites for sustainable development

for our industrial society through:

• low-energy expenditure in manufacturing and processing

• the use of the practically unlimited resource of salt

• the combined production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide

• low emissions and waste during manufacturing and processing

• mechanical and feedstock recycling

• good price-performance ratio of products along with environmental


• immense ecological/social optimisation potential based on

outstanding economical advantages.

In spite of the advantages of PVC and PVC products already

achieved, manufacturers and processors are working resolutely

in the future on

• further improvements on ecological properties of PVC

• further improvement on the economic competitiveness of


• and the further improvement of social needs.



İlknur TÜRKEN (Muhasebe)

Çetin GÜVEN (Dış Ticaret)