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Waste management

An efficient waste management system will minimise the not being re-used and maximise the use of economically and environmentally sensible recovery schemes.

However, even products which have been in service for several decades or second life products containing recyclate, will eventually enter the waste system at some point and, therefore, methods have to be available to be able to deal with this waste.

The industry has a hierarchical preference for managing PVC at the end of its lifecycle.

Mechanical recycling

This makes economic sense where sufficient quantities of homogeneous, clean and sorted waste can be made available. In these cases, the quality of recovered material allows production of the same or similar products.

A number of mechanical recycling projects for PVC are currently underway across Europe . They are extensively described on the Website www.vinyl2010.org

Mechanical recycling of mixed plastic waste is also possible to a limited extent. The PVC industry is also dedicated to improving the sorting and recycling techniques used for mixed plastic waste.

Feedstock Recycling

This process breaks down PVC into feedstock components, making it complementary 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 the hydrocarbon part in the form of hydrocarbons or synthesis gas.

Incineration with Energy Recovery

Oil used in PVC production can be utilised at least twice, making positive use of its high heat value, through incineration with energy recovery. Incorporating PVC consumer products at the end of their useful life in controlled municipal incinerators reduces the need for additional fuel and reduces the amount of PVC going to landfill. A number of independent studies have demonstrated that PVC in addition to the natural presence of chlorine in waste, does not increase the generation of potentially harmful emissions. Modern incinerators are operated to the highest standards and equipped with pollution control equipment that minimises the release of emissions to the environment.

Safe Disposal

Whatever the nature of the PVC recovery process, there is always a residual fraction of waste which is not recyclable. For this limited fraction, controlled landfill still remains a disposal option. The findings of independent studies have confirmed that the presence of consumer products containing PVC in landfill does not constitute a significant risk to the environment.

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