Setting the record straight on PVC-U’s sustainability credentials

Latest News Wed, Oct 16, 2019 8:44 AM


Setting the record straight on PVC-U’s sustainability credentials

With so much negative press around plastic dominating the headlines, there is a risk that all plastic gets tarred with the same brush. This assumption that all plastics are as bad for the environment as single use ones runs the risk of opportunities for a more sustainable future being missed. Because putting it simply, not all plastics are made equal.

This is particularly true when it comes to PVC-U, which is used as a durable building product for everything from window frames to conservatories. The common misconception is that like many plastics, PVC-U is non-recyclable. However this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, PVC-U is actually a construction material that can have its lifetime significantly extended to help reduce waste. But, no doubt you are wondering, how can this be possible when everything you hear about plastic is so negative? The answer to this can be found in science.

Getting to know PVC-U

PVC-U is made of two core ingredients; polyvinyl chloride and ethylene. The polyvinyl chloride comes directly from salt while ethylene is a by-product of oil. This is unplasticized, meaning that it doesn’t contain plasticized chemicals. Instead, to make it hard and durable, impact modifiers and filers are used.

As a result of these modifiers, the scientific behaviour of the plastic changes, meaning that for the first 4-5 times PVC-U is recycled, it actually gets stronger by up to 6%.

This means that PVC-U can be re-processed and used to manufacture products of equal quality, creating an ‘upstream’ recycling process. This recycling process is one that every PVC-U product can go through up to ten times, meaning that the lifespan of the average PVC-U product can be extended from 35 years to 350.

Not all plastics are equal

As a result of this recyclability, tarnishing PVC-U with the same brush as the single-use plastics that pollute our oceans, is likely to undermine attempts to improve sustainability across the construction sector. And by dispelling this myth we will be better positioned to ensure that the 5.6million PVC-U window frames that end up in landfill every year are recycled instead!

To find out more about PVC-U’s sustainability credentials you can download our latest eBook: ‘Sorting It: A guide to PVC-U Sustainability - Separating fact from fiction’ here.

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