Celebrating the circular economy

VinylPlus has reaffirmed its commitment to recycle one million tonnes of PVC per year by 2030 as it marks 20 years of sustainable development.

Among its main achievements (summarised in the VinylPlus Progress Report 2021) are: the development of collection and recycling schemes for PVC waste across Europe, allowing it to recycle 6.5 million tonnes of PVC since 2000; additive replacement; energy consumption reduction during the production processes; and the development of the VinylPlus Product Label.

Looking ahead, VinylPlus is committed to recycling 900,000 tonnes of PVC per year by 2025, and one million tonnes by 2030.

“Over the past 20 years, the European PVC industry, through VinylPlus, has made steady progress in terms of product stewardship, research into innovative technologies and improvement of the environmental footprint of PVC,” the organisation said. “Above all, advances have been made in recycling, with the set-up of collection and recycling schemes that were virtually non-existent 20 years ago.”

Since then, VinylPlus has been a frontrunner in the circular economy by ensuring continuously growing and safe recycling of PVC and was well on track to meet its recycling target of 800,000 tonnes per year by 2020 prior to the Covid pandemic.

Despite the challenges faced by the industry in 2020, VinylPlus still reached more than 730,000 tonnes of PVC recycled and re-used into new products, which is above 91% of the programme’s 2020 target.

Since 2000, the European PVC industry has recycled 6.5 million tonnes of PVC into new products, thus preventing the release of nearly 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, and created 1,500 direct jobs in recycling plants.

VinylPlus has also addressed other sustainability topics such as energy efficiency, sustainable material sourcing and production, and the responsible use of additives.

The energy needed to produce one tonne of PVC resin decreased by an average of 9.5% between 2007 and 2008, and 2015 and 2016. In the same period, CO2 emissions were reduced by 14.4% for the average PVC production. For converters, across main applications – such as window profiles, pipes, flooring and films – energy consumption decreased between 16% and 26.5% in 2020 compared to 2010.

The Additive Sustainability Footprint (ASF) methodology, developed in collaboration with The Natural Step, was peer-reviewed by Life Cycle Analysis experts and validated. It helps additive manufacturers self-assess the sustainability of their current and new additives used in PVC products.

The VinylPlus Product Label, the sustainability mark for PVC products in the building and construction sector “not only provides specific criteria for more sustainable PVC production and use”, Stijn Brancart, expert in circular construction at Vibe, “but also opens up discussion and stimulates producers to apply the principles through different approaches”.

The VinylPlus Product Label has been awarded to 128 PVC products, guiding consumers and public buyers towards more sustainable purchase decisions.

Since 2019, VinylPlus has been a signatory of the Circular Plastics Alliance, the European Commission’s multi-stakeholder platform aimed at boosting the market for recycled plastics to 10 million tonnes by 2025, and chaired the Construction Working Group.

“Looking back, we have achieved a lot,” Brigitte Dero, managing director at VinylPlus, said. “However, there is still much more to do, especially if we intend to proactively contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We now move forward to the next stage of our commitment to sustainable development, exploiting 20+ years of lessons learned and achievements to build a new and even more ambitious commitment for the next decade so as to contribute further towards a more sustainable and circular future.”