Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride
Elongation at break 20–40%
Notch test 2–5 kJ/m2
Glass temperature 82 °C
Melting point
Melting point
The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...

100–260 °C
Effective heat of combustion 17.95 MJ/kg
Specific heat (c) 0.9 kJ/(kg·K)
Water absorption (ASTM) 0.04–0.4

Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic
Thermoplastic, also known as a thermosoftening plastic, is a polymer that turns to a liquid when heated and freezes to a very glassy state when cooled sufficiently...

A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

. It is a vinyl polymer
Vinyl polymer
Vinyl polymers are a group of polymers derived from vinyl monomers. Their backbone is an extended alkane chain, made by polymerizing an alkene group into a chain . In popular usage, "vinyl" refers only to polyvinyl chloride...

 constructed of repeating vinyl groups
A vinyl compound is any organic compound that contains a vinyl group ,which are derivatives of ethene, CH2=CH2, with one hydrogen atom replaced with some other group...

 (ethenyls) having one hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 replaced by chloride
The chloride ion is formed when the element chlorine, a halogen, picks up one electron to form an anion Cl−. The salts of hydrochloric acid HCl contain chloride ions and can also be called chlorides. The chloride ion, and its salts such as sodium chloride, are very soluble in water...

. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

, after polyethylene
Polyethylene or polythene is the most widely used plastic, with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons...

 and polypropylene
Polypropylene , also known as polypropene, is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications including packaging, textiles , stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive components, and polymer banknotes...

. PVC is widely used in construction
In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of human multitasking...

 because it is cheap, durable, and easily worked. PVC production is expected to exceed 40 million tonnes by 2016. According to IUPAC, polyvinyl chloride should be named poly(chloroethanediyl), but this name found no widespread use.

It can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizer
Plasticizers or dispersants are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of the material to which they are added; these include plastics, cement, concrete, wallboard, and clay. Although the same compounds are often used for both plastics and concretes the desired effects and results are...

s, the most widely used being phthalates
Phthalates , or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers . They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride...

. In this form, it is used in clothing
Clothing refers to any covering for the human body that is worn. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of nearly all human societies...

 and upholstery
Upholstery is the work of providing furniture, especially seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers. The word upholstery comes from the Middle English word upholder, which referred to a tradesman who held up his goods. The term is equally applicable to domestic,...

, electrical cable insulation, inflatable products and many applications in which it replaces rubber.

PVC is a controversial material, in part because of the generic term which is applied to many products, but each product may have a difference in the chemicals used during its production. For example, drinking water PVC pipes do not contain the controversial chemicals that household plastics contain. Other concerns extend to the products useful life and incineration, especially in accidental and uncontrolled circumstances, it may liberate persistent toxins (see the section "Health and safety"), which the manufacture, use and destruction of suitable alternative plastics such as polypropylene do not.


Polyvinyl chloride is produced by polymerization
In polymer chemistry, polymerization is a process of reacting monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form three-dimensional networks or polymer chains...

 of the vinyl chloride
Vinyl chloride
Vinyl chloride is the organochloride with the formula H2C:CHCl. It is also called vinyl chloride monomer, VCM or chloroethene. This colorless compound is an important industrial chemical chiefly used to produce the polymer polyvinyl chloride . At ambient pressure and temperature, vinyl chloride...

A monomer is an atom or a small molecule that may bind chemically to other monomers to form a polymer; the term "monomeric protein" may also be used to describe one of the proteins making up a multiprotein complex...

 (VCM), as shown. About 57% of its mass is chlorine.

By far the most widely used production process is suspension polymerization. In this process, VCM and water are introduced into the polymerization reactor and a polymerization initiator, along with other chemical additives, are added to initiate the polymerization reaction. Usually a catalyst is also used for the better polymerization. The contents of the reaction vessel are continually mixed to maintain the suspension and ensure a uniform particle size of the PVC resin. The reaction is exothermic
In thermodynamics, the term exothermic describes a process or reaction that releases energy from the system, usually in the form of heat, but also in the form of light , electricity , or sound...

, and thus requires a cooling mechanism to maintain the reactor contents at the appropriate temperature. As the volumes also contract during the reaction (PVC is denser than VCM), water is continually added to the mixture to maintain the suspension.

Once the reaction has run its course, the resulting PVC slurry is degassed and stripped to remove excess VCM (which is recycled) then passed though a centrifuge to remove water. The slurry is further dried in a hot air bed, and the resulting powder sieved before storage or pelletization. Normally, the resulting PVC has a VCM content of less than 1 part per million.

Other production processes, such as micro-suspension polymerization and emulsion polymerization, produce PVC with smaller particle sizes (10 μm vs. 120–150 μm for suspension PVC) with slightly different properties and with somewhat different sets of applications.

The product of the polymerization process is unmodified PVC. Before PVC can be made into finished products, it almost always requires conversion into a compound by the incorporation of additives such as heat stabilizers, UV stabilizers, lubricants, plasticizers, processing aids, impact modifiers, thermal modifiers, fillers, flame retardants, biocides, blowing agents and smoke suppressors, and, optionally pigments.


The properties for PVC are usually categorized based on rigid and flexible PVCs.
Property Rigid PVC Flexible PVC
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

1.3–1.45 1.1–1.35
Thermal conductivity
Thermal conductivity
In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material's ability to conduct heat. It appears primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction....

The kelvin is a unit of measurement for temperature. It is one of the seven base units in the International System of Units and is assigned the unit symbol K. The Kelvin scale is an absolute, thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all...

0.14–0.28 0.14–0.17
Yield strength [MPa] 31–60 10–25
Young's modulus
Young's modulus
Young's modulus is a measure of the stiffness of an elastic material and is a quantity used to characterize materials. It is defined as the ratio of the uniaxial stress over the uniaxial strain in the range of stress in which Hooke's Law holds. In solid mechanics, the slope of the stress-strain...

Flexural strength
Flexural strength
Flexural strength, also known as modulus of rupture, bend strength, or fracture strength, a mechanical parameter for brittle material, is defined as a material's ability to resist deformation under load...

 (yield) [psi]
Compression strength [psi] 9500
Coefficient of thermal expansion (linear) [mm/(mm °C)] 5×10−5
Vicat B [°C] 65–100 Not recommended
Electrical resistivity is a measure of how strongly a material opposes the flow of electric current. A low resistivity indicates a material that readily allows the movement of electric charge. The SI unit of electrical resistivity is the ohm metre...

 [Ω m]
1016 1012–1015
Surface resistivity [Ω] 1013–1014 1011–1012


PVC was accidentally discovered at least twice in the 19th century, first in 1835 by Henri Victor Regnault
Henri Victor Regnault
Henri Victor Regnault was a French chemist and physicist best known for his careful measurements of the thermal properties of gases. He was an early thermodynamicist and was mentor to William Thomson in the late 1840s....

 and in 1872 by Eugen Baumann
Eugen Baumann
Eugen Baumann was a German chemist. He was one of the first people to create polyvinyl chloride , and, together with Carl Schotten, he discovered the Schotten-Baumann reaction.-Life:...

. On both occasions the polymer appeared as a white solid inside flasks of vinyl chloride that had been left exposed to sunlight. In the early 20th century the Russian chemist Ivan Ostromislensky
Ivan Ostromislensky
Ivan Ivanovich Ostromislensky was a Russian organic chemist. He is credited as the pioneer in studying polymerization of synthetic rubber as well as inventor of various industrial technologies for production of synthetic rubber, polymers and pharmaceuticals.-Early life:Ostromislensky was born in...

 and Fritz Klatte
Fritz Klatte
Fritz Klatte was a German chemist and the discoverer of polyvinyl acetate, with German patent for its preparation from acetylene gas....

 of the German chemical company Griesheim-Elektron both attempted to use PVC in commercial products, but difficulties in processing the rigid, sometimes brittle polymer blocked their efforts. Waldo Semon
Waldo Semon
Waldo Lonsbury Semon was a renowned American inventor born in Demopolis, Alabama.Semon put his name into the history books for inventing vinyl, the world's second most used plastic. He found the formula for vinyl by mixing a few synthetic polymers, and the result was a substance that was elastic,...

 and the B.F. Goodrich
Goodrich Corporation
The Goodrich Corporation , formerly the B.F. Goodrich Company, is an American aerospace manufacturing company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Founded in Akron, Ohio in 1870 as Goodrich, Tew & Co. by Dr. Benjamin Franklin Goodrich. The company name was changed to the "B.F...

 Company developed a method in 1926 to plasticize
Plasticity (physics)
In physics and materials science, plasticity describes the deformation of a material undergoing non-reversible changes of shape in response to applied forces. For example, a solid piece of metal being bent or pounded into a new shape displays plasticity as permanent changes occur within the...

 PVC by blending it with various additives. The result was a more flexible and more easily processed material that soon achieved widespread commercial use.


A number of PVC's properties recommend it for a wide variety of applications. It is biologically and chemically resistant, making it the plastic of choice for most household sewerage pipe
Sanitary sewer
A sanitary sewer is a separate underground carriage system specifically for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment or disposal. Sanitary sewers serving industrial areas also carry industrial wastewater...

s and other pipe applications where corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 would limit the use of metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

. It is also a suitable material for greenhouses, small home playgrounds, furniture, pool toy frames, foam weapons, custom truck toppers, or even giant building sets for kids.

With the addition of impact modifiers and stabilizers, it becomes a popular material for window
A window is a transparent or translucent opening in a wall or door that allows the passage of light and, if not closed or sealed, air and sound. Windows are usually glazed or covered in some other transparent or translucent material like float glass. Windows are held in place by frames, which...

 and door
A door is a movable structure used to open and close off an entrance, typically consisting of a panel that swings on hinges or that slides or rotates inside of a space....

 frames. By adding plasticizers, it can become flexible enough to be used in cabling applications as a wire
A wire is a single, usually cylindrical, flexible strand or rod of metal. Wires are used to bear mechanical loads and to carry electricity and telecommunications signals. Wire is commonly formed by drawing the metal through a hole in a die or draw plate. Standard sizes are determined by various...

 insulator. It is also used to make vinyl records.


PVC has become widely used in clothing, to either create a leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

-like material or at times simply for the effect of PVC. PVC clothing is common in Goth
Goth subculture
The goth subculture is a contemporary subculture found in many countries. It began in England during the early 1980s in the gothic rock scene, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify...

, Punk
Punk rock
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock...

 and alternative fashion
Alternative fashion
Alternative fashion is an umbrella term encompassing a plethora of styles that have one major thing in common - they, at least at one time, stood apart from mainstream commercial fashion. The term has long been associated with the fashions of specific subcultures , however it is not limited to this...

s. PVC is cheaper than rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

, leather, and latex
Latex is the stable dispersion of polymer microparticles in an aqueous medium. Latexes may be natural or synthetic.Latex as found in nature is a milky fluid found in 10% of all flowering plants . It is a complex emulsion consisting of proteins, alkaloids, starches, sugars, oils, tannins, resins,...

 and so it is more widely available and worn.

PVC fabric has a sheen to it and is waterproof. It is commonly used in coats, skiing equipment, shoes, jacket
A jacket is a hip- or waist-length garment for the upper body. A jacket typically has sleeves, and fastens in the front. A jacket is generally lighter, tighter-fitting, and less insulating than a coat, which is outerwear...

s, apron
An apron is an outer protective garment that covers primarily the front of the body. It may be worn for hygienic reasons as well as in order to protect clothes from wear and tear. The apron is commonly part of the uniform of several work categories, including waitresses, nurses, and domestic...

s, and bags because of this.

Electric wires

PVC is commonly used as the insulation on electric wires; the plastic used for this purpose needs to be plasticized
Plasticizers or dispersants are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of the material to which they are added; these include plastics, cement, concrete, wallboard, and clay. Although the same compounds are often used for both plastics and concretes the desired effects and results are...


In a fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

, PVC-coated wires can form HCl
HCL or HCl can stand for:* Hairy cell leukemia, an uncommon and slowly progressing B cell leukemia* Hardware compatibility list...

 fumes; the chlorine serves to scavenge free radicals and is the source of the material's fire retardance
Fire retardant
A fire retardant is a substance other than water that reduces flammability of fuels or delays their combustion. This typically refers to chemical retardants but may also include substances that work by physical action, such as cooling the fuels; examples of these include fire-fighting foams and...

. While HCl fumes can also pose a health hazard in their own right, HCl dissolves in moisture and breaks down onto surfaces, particularly in areas where the air is cool enough to breathe, and is not available for inhalation. Frequently in applications where smoke is a major hazard (notably in tunnels and communal areas) PVC-free cable insulation is preferred, such as low smoke zero halogen
Low Smoke Zero Halogen
Low smoke zero halogen or low smoke free of halogen is a material classification typically used for cable jacketing in the wire and cable industry. LSZH cable jacketing is composed of thermoplastic or thermoset compounds that emit limited smoke and no halogen when exposed to high sources of...

 (LSZH) insulation.


Roughly half of the world's polyvinyl chloride resin manufactured annually is used for producing pipes for various municipal and industrial applications. In the water distribution market it accounts for 66% of the market in the US, and in sanitary sewer pipe applications, it accounts for 75%. Its light weight, high strength, and low reactivity make it particularly well-suited to this purpose. In addition, PVC pipes can be fused together using various solvent cements, or heat-fused (butt-fusion process, similar to joining HDPE pipe), creating permanent joints that are virtually impervious to leakage.

In February, 2007 the California Building Standards Code was updated to approve the use of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride
Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride
Chlorinated Polyvinyl chlorideDensity1.56 g/cm3Young's modulus 2.9-3.4 GPaTensile strength50-80 MPaElongation @ break20-40%Notch test2-5 kJ/m2Glass temperature 106 - 115 °CMelting point212 °CVicat B106 to 115 °C...

 (CPVC) pipe for use in residential water supply
Water supply
Water supply is the provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations, community endeavours or by individuals, usually via a system of pumps and pipes...

 piping systems. CPVC has been a nationally accepted material in the US since 1982; California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, however, has permitted only limited use since 2001. The Department of Housing and Community Development prepared and certified an environmental impact statement
Environmental impact statement
An environmental impact statement , under United States environmental law, is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act for certain actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment". An EIS is a tool for decision making...

 resulting in a recommendation that the Commission adopt and approve the use of CPVC. The Commission's vote was unanimous and CPVC has been placed in the 2007 California Plumbing Code.

In the United States and Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, PVC pipes account for the largest majority of pipe materials used in buried municipal applications for drinking water
Drinking water
Drinking water or potable water is water pure enough to be consumed or used with low risk of immediate or long term harm. In most developed countries, the water supplied to households, commerce and industry is all of drinking water standard, even though only a very small proportion is actually...

 distribution and wastewater
Wastewater is any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influence. It comprises liquid waste discharged by domestic residences, commercial properties, industry, and/or agriculture and can encompass a wide range of potential contaminants and concentrations...



Polyvinyl chloride is formed in flat sheets in a variety of thicknesses and colors. As flat sheets, PVC is often expanded to create voids in the interior of the material, providing additional thickness without additional weight and minimal extra cost (see Closed-cell PVC foamboard). Sheets are cut using saw
A saw is a tool that uses a hard blade or wire with an abrasive edge to cut through softer materials. The cutting edge of a saw is either a serrated blade or an abrasive...

 and rotary cutting equipment. Plasticized PVC is also used to produce thin, colored, or clear, adhesive
An adhesive, or glue, is a mixture in a liquid or semi-liquid state that adheres or bonds items together. Adhesives may come from either natural or synthetic sources. The types of materials that can be bonded are vast but they are especially useful for bonding thin materials...

-backed films referred to simply as vinyl. These films are typically cut on a computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

-controlled plotter
A plotter is a computer printing device for printing vector graphics. In the past, plotters were widely used in applications such as computer-aided design, though they have generally been replaced with wide-format conventional printers...

 or printed in a wide-format printer
Wide-format printer
Wide-format printers are generally accepted to be any printer with a print width between 17" and 100". Printers over the 100" mark may be called Super-Wide or Grand format. Wide format printers are used to print banners, posters and general signage and in some cases may be more economical than...

. These sheets and films are used to produce a wide variety of commercial signage products and markings on vehicles, e.g. car body stripes.


PVC cements are available at plumbing supply houses. The cement softens the material to a gel state until the adhesive layer cures. This has another practical application of being able to hand-machine PVC pipe with a razor blade to change the wall thickness to allow assembly of nonstandard radius arc segments of electrical conduit large radius elbows. Buried PVC pipes in both water and sanitary sewer applications that are 4 inches (101.6 mm) in diameter and larger are typically joined by means of a gasket-sealed joint. In gasket-sealed jointing systems, an elastomeric gasket is seated in a groove within the bell (female end of pipe). When the spigot (male end) of the adjoining pipe is inserted into the bell, the gasket forms a positive seal that prevents leakage of fluid within the pipe and also keeps water and other contaminants from surrounding soils from entering the piping system. The most common type of gasket utilized in North America is a metal reinforced elastomer, commonly referred to as a Reiber sealing system.

Ceiling tiles

PVC ceiling tiles are an alternative ceiling tiles that are easy to install over any flat surface. They can be glued onto an existing ceiling with a reasonably flat surface.

Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride (uPVC)

uPVC or rigid PVC is often used in the building industry as a low-maintenance material, particularly in Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, the United Kingdom, and in the United States where it is known as vinyl, or vinyl siding
Vinyl siding
Vinyl siding is plastic exterior cladding for a house, used for decoration and weatherproofing, as an alternative to traditional wood siding or other materials such as aluminum or fiber cement siding. It is an engineered product, manufactured primarily from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, resin, giving...

. The material comes in a range of colors and finishes, including a photo-effect wood finish, and is used as a substitute for painted wood, mostly for window frames and sill
Sill plate
A sill plate or sole plate in construction and architecture is the bottom horizontal member of a wall or building to which vertical members are attached. Sill plates are usually composed of lumber. It usually comes in sizes of 2×4, 2×6, 2×8, and 2×10. In the platform framing method the sill plate...

s when installing double glazing
Insulated glazing
Insulated glazing also known as double glazing are double or triple glass window panes separated by an air or other gas filled space to reduce heat transfer across a part of the building envelope....

 in new buildings, or to replace older single glazed windows. It has many other uses including fascia
Fascia (architecture)
Fascia is a term used in architecture to refer to a frieze or band running horizontally and situated vertically under the roof edge or which forms the outer surface of a cornice and is visible to an outside observer...

, and siding
Siding is the outer covering or cladding of a house meant to shed water and protect from the effects of weather. On a building that uses siding, it may act as a key element in the aesthetic beauty of the structure and directly influence its property value....

 or weatherboarding
Weatherboarding is the cladding or ‘siding’ of a house consisting of long thin timber boards that overlap one another, either vertically or horizontally on the outside of the wall. They are usually of rectangular section with parallel sides...

. The same material has almost entirely replaced the use of cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

 for plumbing
Plumbing is the system of pipes and drains installed in a building for the distribution of potable drinking water and the removal of waterborne wastes, and the skilled trade of working with pipes, tubing and plumbing fixtures in such systems. A plumber is someone who installs or repairs piping...

 and drainage
Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies.-Early history:...

, being used for waste pipes, drainpipes, gutter
Rain gutter
A rain gutter is a narrow channel, or trough, forming the component of a roof system which collects and diverts rainwater shed by the roof....

s and downspout
A downspout, downpipe, roof drain pipe, or leader is a vertical pipe for carrying rainwater from a rain gutter to ground level...

s. uPVC does not contain phthalates or BPA. Most dental retainers and mouthguards are made from uPVC. uPVC does not have the same concerns as flexible PVC. Phthalates are only added to flexible PVC. uPVC is also known as rigid PVC, uPVC is known as having strong resistance against chemicals, sunlight, and oxidation from water.

End of Life

As it does not decompose, waste and pollution is a big issue when a PVC-Product‘s life comes to an end. There are several approaches to avoid wasting the environment.

The European waste hierarchy refers to the 5 steps included in the article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive[1]:
  1. Prevention - preventing and reducing waste generation.
  2. Reuse and preparation for reuse - giving the products a second life before they become waste.
  3. Recycle - any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes composting and it does not include incineration.
  4. Recovery - some waste incineration based on a political non-scientific formula that upgrades the less inefficient incinerators.
  5. Disposal - processes to dispose of waste be it landfilling, incineration, pyrolisis, gasification and other finalist solutions. Landfill is restricted in some EU-countries through Landfill Directives
    Landfill Directive
    The Landfill Directive, more formally Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste, is a European Union directive issued by the European Union to be implemented by its member states....

     and there is a debate about Incineration  E.g. original plastic which contains a lot of energy is just recovered in energy and not recycled. This is why natural resources have to be extracted for new PVC-products.

According to the Waste Framework Directive the European Waste Hierarchy is legally binding except in cases that may require specific waste streams to depart from the hierarchy. This should be justified on the basis of life-cycle thinking.
In Europe, developments in PVC waste management have been monitored by Vinyl 2010,
a legal entity established in 2000. In the waste management area their commitment was to
  1. Support integrated waste management approaches, using raw materials as efficiently as possible
  2. Work with the stakeholders to research, develop, and implement recycling of 200,000 tonnes per year of PVC postconsumer waste in 2010 in addition to waste already recycled in 2000, or regulated by the PPW, ELV and E&E Waste Directives
  3. Recycle at least 25% of collectable, available PVC postconsumer waste from pipes, window profiles, and roofing membranes by 2003 and increase this to 50% by 2005.

Vinyl 2010 has a Monitoring Committee and publishes annual reviews. In 2011, it reported that 260,842 tonnes of post-consumer PVC waste was recycled in 2010, i.e. an increase of 220,000 tonnes over the 1999 volumes, exceeding the 10-year target of 200,000 tonnes.

Since June 2011, it is followed by Vinylplus, a new set of targets for sustainable development. Its main target is to recycle 800,000 tonnes/year of PVC by 2020.

Collection and recycling schemes for PVC waste stream are managed through Recovinyl which reported the recycled tonnage as follows: pipe 25 kT, profile 107 kT, rigid film 6 kT, flexible cables 79 kt and mixed flexible 38 kT.

There exist several approaches of the industry to solve the waste problem, e.g. Vinyloop. It is a mechanical recycling process using a solvent to separate the PVC compound and other materials. This solvent turns in a closed loop process in which the solvent is completely recycled. Recycled PVC is used in place of virgin PVC in various applications: coatings for swimming pools, shoe soles, hoses, diaphragms tunnel, coated fabrics, PVC sheets.

Phthalate plasticizers

Many vinyl products contain additional chemicals to change the chemical consistency of the product. Some of these additional chemicals called additives can leach out of vinyl products. Plasticizers that must be added to make PVC flexible have been additives of particular concern.

Because soft PVC toys have been made for babies for years, there are concerns that these additives leach out of soft toys into the mouths of the children chewing on them. Phthalates mimic human hormones and also affect various life forms including fish and invertebrates adversely. Additionally, adult sex toy
Sex toy
A sex toy is an object or device that is primarily used to facilitate human sexual pleasure. The most popular sex toys are designed to resemble human genitals and may be vibrating or non-vibrating...

s have been demonstrated to contain high concentrations of the additives. In January 2006, the European Union placed a ban on six types of phthalate softeners, including DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate
Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
Bisphthalate, commonly abbreviated DEHP, is an organic compound with the formula C6H42. It is sometimes called dioctyl phthalate and abbreviated DOP. It is the most important "phthalate," being the diester of phthalic acid and the branched-chain 2-ethylhexanol. This colourless viscous liquid is...

), used in toys. In the U.S. most companies have voluntarily stopped manufacturing PVC toys with DEHP and in 2003 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) denied a petition for a ban on PVC toys made with an alternative plasticizer, DINP (diisononyl phthalate). In April 2006, the European Chemicals Bureau of the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 published an assessment of DINP which found risk "unlikely" for children and newborns.

Vinyl intravenous (IV) bags used in neo-natal intensive care units have also been shown to leach DEHP. In a draft guidance paper published in September 2002, the US FDA recognizes that many medical devices with PVC containing DEHP are not used in ways that result in significant human exposure to the chemical. The FDA, however, suggests that manufacturers consider eliminating DEHP in certain devices that can result in high aggregate exposures for sensitive patient populations such as neonates.

Due to environmental concerns use of PVC is discouraged by some local authorities in countries such as UK, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...


Other vinyl products including car interiors, shower curtains, and flooring initially release chemical gases into the air
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

. Some studies indicate that this outgassing
Outgassing is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen or absorbed in some material. As an example, research has shown how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has sometimes been linked to ocean outgassing...

 of additives may contribute to health complications, and have resulted in a call for banning the use of DEHP on shower curtains, among other uses. The Japanese car companies Toyota, Nissan, and Honda
is a Japanese public multinational corporation primarily known as a manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles.Honda has been the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, as well as the world's largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than...

 have eliminated PVC in their car interiors starting in 2007.

In 2004 a joint Swedish-Danish research team found a statistical association between allergies in children and indoor air levels of DEHP and BBzP (butyl benzyl phthalate), which is used in vinyl flooring. In December 2006, the European Chemicals Bureau of the European Commission released a final draft risk assessment of BBzP which found "no concern" for consumer exposure including exposure to children.

In November, 2005 one of the largest hospital networks in the U.S., Catholic Healthcare West
Catholic Healthcare West
Catholic Healthcare West is a California-based not-for-profit public benefit corporation that operates hospitals in California, Arizona, and Nevada. As such, it is exempt from federal and state income taxes...

, signed a contract with B.Braun for vinyl-free intravenous bags and tubing. According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice in Falls Church, VA, which helps to coordinate a "precautionary" PVC Campaign, several major corporations including Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

, Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , branded as Walmart since 2008 and Wal-Mart before then, is an American public multinational corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. The company is the world's 18th largest public corporation, according to the Forbes Global 2000...

, and Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is an integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland, California, United States, founded in 1945 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and physician Sidney Garfield...

 announced efforts to eliminate PVC from products and packaging in 2005. Target is reducing its sale of items with PVC.

The FDA Paper titled "Safety Assessment of Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)Released from PVC Medical Devices" states that [] Critically ill or injured patients may be at increased risk of developing adverse health effects from DEHP, not only by virtue of increased exposure, relative to the general population, but also because of the physiological and pharmacodynamic changes that occur in these patients, compared to healthy individuals.

In 2008 the European Union's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) reviewed the safety of DEHP in medical devices. The SCENIHR report states that certain medical procedures used in high risk patients result in a significant exposure to DEHP and concludes there is still a reason for having some concerns about the exposure of prematurely born male babies to medical devices containing DEHP. The Committee said there are some alternative plasticizers available for which there is sufficient toxicological data to indicate a lower hazard compared to DEHP but added that the functionality of these plasticizers should be assessed before they can be used as an alternative for DEHP in PVC medical devices.

Vinyl chloride monomer

In the early 1970s, Dr. John Creech and Dr. Maurice Johnson were the first to clearly link and recognize the carcinogenicity of vinyl chloride monomer to humans when workers in the polyvinyl chloride polymerization section of a B.F. Goodrich plant near Louisville, Kentucky, were diagnosed with liver angiosarcoma
Angiosarcoma is a malignant neoplasm of endothelial-type cells that line vessel walls. This may be in reference to blood or lymphatic vessels ....

 also known as hemangiosarcoma
Hemangiosarcoma is a rare, rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer. It is a sarcoma arising from the lining of blood vessels; that is, blood-filled channels and spaces are commonly observed microscopically...

, a rare disease. Since that time, studies of PVC workers in Australia, Italy, Germany, and the UK have all associated certain types of occupational cancers with exposure to vinyl chloride. The link between angiosarcoma of the liver and long-term exposure to vinyl chloride is the only one that has been confirmed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. All the cases of angiosarcoma developed from exposure to vinyl chloride monomer were in workers who were exposed to very high VCM levels, routinely, for many years. These workers cleaned accretions in reactors, a practice that has now been replaced by automated high-pressure water jets.

A 1997 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report concluded that the development and acceptance by the PVC industry of a closed loop polymerization process in the late 1970s "almost completely eliminated worker exposures" and that "new cases of hepatic angiosarcoma in vinyl chloride polymerization workers have been virtually eliminated."

According to the EPA, "vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride
The chemical compound 1,2-dichloroethane, commonly known by its old name of ethylene dichloride , is a chlorinated hydrocarbon, mainly used to produce vinyl chloride monomer , the major precursor for PVC production. It is a colourless liquid with a chloroform-like odour...

 (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver." EPA's 2001 updated Toxicological Profile and Summary Health Assessment for VCM in its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database lowers EPA's previous risk factor estimate by a factor of 20 and concludes that "because of the consistent evidence for liver cancer in all the studies...and the weaker association for other sites, it is concluded that the liver is the most sensitive site, and protection against liver cancer will protect against possible cancer induction in other tissues."

A 1998 front-page series in the Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily newspaper in Texas, USA, headquartered in the Houston Chronicle Building in Downtown Houston. , it is the ninth-largest newspaper by circulation in the United States...

 claimed the vinyl industry has manipulated vinyl chloride studies to avoid liability for worker exposure and to hide extensive and severe chemical spills into local communities. Retesting of community residents in 2001 by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is a federal public health agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The agency focuses on minimizing human health risks associated with exposure to hazardous substances...

 (ATSDR) found dioxin levels similar to those in a comparison community in Louisiana and to the U.S. population. Cancer rates in the community were similar to Louisiana and US averages.


The environmentalist group Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

 has advocated the global phase-out of PVC because they claim dioxin is produced as a byproduct of vinyl chloride manufacture and from incineration of waste PVC in domestic garbage.

PVC produces HCl upon combustion almost quantitatively related to its chlorine content. Extensive studies in Europe indicate that the chlorine found in emitted dioxins is not derived from HCl in the flue gases. Instead, most dioxins arise in the condensed solid phase by the reaction of inorganic chlorides with graphitic structures in char-containing ash particles. Copper acts as a catalyst for these reactions.

According to a 1994 report by the British firm, ICI Chemicals & Polymers Ltd., "It has been known since the publication of a paper in 1989 that these oxychlorination reactions [used to make vinyl chloride and some chlorinated solvents] generate polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and dibenzofurans (PCDFs). The reactions include all of the ingredients and conditions necessary to form PCDD/PCDFs.... It is difficult to see how any of these conditions could be modified so as to prevent PCDD/PCDF formation without seriously impairing the reaction for which the process is designed." In other words, dioxins are an undesirable byproduct of producing vinyl chloride and eliminating the production of dioxins while maintaining the oxychlorination reaction may be difficult. Dioxins created by vinyl chloride production are released by on-site incinerators, flares, boilers, wastewater treatment systems and even in trace quantities in vinyl resins. The US EPA estimate of dioxin releases from the PVC industry was 13 grams TEQ in 1995, or less than 0.5% of the total dioxin emissions in the US; by 2002, PVC industry dioxin emissions had been further reduced by 23%.

Studies of household waste burning indicate consistent increases in dioxin generation with increasing PVC concentrations. According to the EPA dioxin inventory, landfill fire
Landfill fire
A landfill fire occurs when waste disposed of in a landfill ignites and spreads. In landfills that do not cover their waste with daily cover, biological decomposition creates substantial heat and can cause material in the landfills to spontaneously combust. In the U.S...

s are likely to represent an even larger source of dioxin to the environment. A survey of international studies consistently identifies high dioxin concentrations in areas affected by open waste burning and a study that looked at the homologue pattern found the sample with the highest dioxin concentration was "typical for the pyrolysis of PVC". Other EU studies indicate that PVC likely "accounts for the overwhelming majority of chlorine that is available for dioxin formation during landfill fires."

The next largest sources of dioxin in the EPA inventory are medical and municipal waste incinerators. Various studies have been conducted that reach contradictory results. For instance a study of commercial-scale incinerators showed no relationship between the PVC content of the waste and dioxin emissions. Other studies have shown a clear correlation between dioxin formation and chloride content and indicate that PVC is a significant contributor to the formation of both dioxin and PCB in incinerators.

In February 2007, the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) released its report on a PVC avoidance related materials credit for the LEED Green Building Rating system. The report concludes that "no single material shows up as the best across all the human health and environmental impact categories, nor as the worst" but that the "risk of dioxin emissions puts PVC consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts."

In Europe the overwhelming importance of combustion conditions on dioxin formation has been established by numerous researchers. The single most important factor in forming dioxin-like compounds is the temperature of the combustion gases. Oxygen concentration also plays a major role on dioxin formation, but not the chlorine content.

The design of modern incinerators minimises PCDD/F formation by optimising the stability of the thermal process. To comply with the EU emission limit of 0.1 ng I-TEQ/m3 modern incinerators operate in conditions minimising dioxin formation and are equipped with pollution control devices which catch the low amounts produced. Recent information is showing for example that dioxin levels in populations near incinerators in Lisbon and Madeira have not risen since the plants began operating in 1999 and 2002 respectively.

Several studies have also shown that removing PVC from waste would not significantly reduce the quantity of dioxins emitted. The European Union Commission published in July 2000 a Green Paper on the Environmental Issues of PVC. " The Commission states (page 27) that it has been suggested that the reduction of the chlorine content in the waste can contribute to the reduction of dioxin formation, even though the actual mechanism is not fully understood. The influence on the reduction is also expected to be a second or third order relationship. It is most likely that the main incineration parameters, such as the temperature and the oxygen concentration, have a major influence on the dioxin formation”. The Green Paper states further that at the current levels of chlorine in municipal waste, there does not seem to be a direct quantitative relationship between chlorine content and dioxin formation.


The State of California is currently considering a bill that would ban the use of PVC in consumer packaging due to the threats it poses to human and environmental health and its effect on the recycling stream. Specifically, the language of the bill analysis stipulates that EPA has listed vinyl chloride, a "constituent element" of PVC, as a carcinogen. It also further cites that there are concerns about the leaching of phthalates and lead from the PVC packaging.

See also

  • Plastic pressure pipe systems
  • Plastic recycling
    Plastic recycling
    Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastics and reprocessing the material into useful products, sometimes completely different in form from their original state. For instance, this could mean melting down soft drink bottles and then casting them as plastic chairs and tables...

  • Polyvinyl fluoride
    Polyvinyl fluoride
    Polyvinyl fluoride or –n– is a polymer material mainly used in flammability-lowering coating of airplane interiors and photovoltaic module backsheets. It is also used in raincoats and metal sheeting...

  • Polyvinylidene chloride
    Polyvinylidene chloride
    Polyvinylidene chloride is a polymer derived from vinylidene chloride.-History:Ralph Wiley, a Dow Chemical lab worker, accidentally discovered polyvinylidene chloride in 1933. While cleaning laboratory glassware, he came across a vial he could not scrub clean...

  • Polyvinylidene fluoride
    Polyvinylidene fluoride
    Polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF is a highly non-reactive and pure thermoplastic fluoropolymer.PVDF is a specialty plastic material in the fluoropolymer family; it is used generally in applications requiring the highest purity, strength, and resistance to solvents, acids, bases and heat and low...

  • Smart polymer
    Smart polymer
    Smart polymers or stimuli-responsive polymers are high-performance polymers that change according to the environment they are in.Such materials can be sensitive to a number of factors, such as temperature, humidity, pH, the intensity of light or an electrical or magnetic field and can respond in...

  • Vinyl roof membrane
    Vinyl roof membrane
    A vinyl roof membrane is a polyvinyl chloride roofing membrane used in commercial construction. Vinyl roofing membranes have been around for over 40 years in the U.S. and longer in Europe...

  • Petrocasa
    Petrocasa is a type of Venezuelan family houses, built in mass production. These houses are produced since 2007 by Corporación Petroquímica de Venezuela and are largely utilized in rural areas under the public housing program, Mission Habitat...

External links

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