VinylPlus, the European PVC industry sustainable development programme, recycled 514,913 tonnes of PVC within its framework last year. The 2015 results were presented at its 4th Vinyl Sustainability Forum 2016 in Vienna, Austria where the industry shared its major successes, notably the replacement of lead-based stabilisers in the EU-28 market.
Taking the theme of ‘Smart Vinyl for our Cities’, the Forum held on April 28th attracted more than 130 stakeholders from academia, government bodies, the UN, the European Commission, specifiers, designers, architects and all sectors of the PVC industry. Featuring top-level speakers from across Europe, presentations and panel discussions centred on the versatile role of PVC in meeting the future needs of people living and working in urban environments and how it can make a significant contribution to many aspects of the built environment.
Welcoming delegates, VinylPlus Chairman Josef Ertl said: “European cities are forerunners in the transition towards a low carbon and resource-efficient economy. 72% of the EU population lives in urban areas, using 70% of our energy. “To assure quality of life, future cities will need healthy and energy-efficient buildings, reliable water distribution and sewage systems, as well as affordable healthcare. Using PVC in place of other materials reduces costs, improves product performance and makes a positive contribution to sustainable development.” “With our NGO partner The Natural Step, we will revisit our Voluntary commitment and highlight the relevance and sustainability aspects of PVC products in 21st century cities,” added Josef Ertl.
Explaining the main outcomes of the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) and the Paris Climate Summit (COP21), Stephan Sicars, Director Department of Environment, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) said: “The shift of emphasis to designing products and processes for sustainability offers the plastics and PVC industry many opportunities to capitalise on innovation, as well as consumer demands for better environmental performance and smaller environmental footprint of products. These trends are said to allow USD 3 trillion in potential resource savings by 2030 amid an emerging USD 1 trillion global ‘green’ market. “A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. The PVC production chain is making progress globally by reducing its environmental impact in areas such as chlor-alkaline production, energy and mercury use and VCM production. In addition, there are excellent developments in different regions and in Europe, especially.”
VinylPlus General Manager Brigitte Dero presented the 2015 results and highlighted lead-based stabiliser replacement as a ‘historic achievement’. This means, from 2016, products made from virgin PVC resin by European converters no longer contain lead. She stated: “Our progress and achievements in 2015 demonstrate how the VinylPlus Voluntary Commitment is contributing to addressing climate change, improving product sustainability and moving the European PVC industry towards a circular economy. You can find out more in our Progress Report 2016”. “Undoubtedly, the highlight of the year for VinylPlus was the replacement of lead-based stabilisers in the EU-28 by the end of 2015. This major achievement by the European Stabiliser Producers Association (ESPA – www.stabilisers.eu) concluded a challenging journey that saw close cooperation along the value chain to solve technical constraints”.
In 2015, VinylPlus recycled 514,913 tonnes of PVC waste – an upward recycling trend of which window profiles and related profile products accounted for around 45%. The greatest volumes - 508,154 tonnes – were registered and certified by Recovinyl (www.recovinyl.com), the PVC waste collection and recycling network comprising 177 companies Europe-wide. The target is to recycle 800,000 tonnes per year by 2020. VinylPlus reaffirmed its commitment to addressing the issue of ‘legacy additives’ in recycled PVC in cooperation with regulatory authorities and is calling to propose realistic solutions for the continuation and development of PVC recycling, taking into account its resource efficiency benefits. VinylPlus is also intensifying its discussions with institutions in a committed effort to help find solutions amid ongoing concern from recyclers and converters over uncertainties in the implementation of relevant EU regulations, such as REACH, CLP and Hazardous Waste.
Christos Fragakis, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Research & Innovation, European Commission spoke about the new EU R&I policy initiative to promote the deployment of solutions to address the complex, but highly interconnected urban challenges and underpin cities’ transition towards sustainability and enhanced resilience to changes. He also updated delegates on the new Circular Economy Package (endorsed in December 2015), the upcoming Plastics Strategy and the potential contributions of Horizon 2020 in underpinning innovation in all its forms.
Reflecting on the Forum, Josef Ertl concluded: “Having heard some inspiring talks and presentations, I feel encouraged about the future of PVC. We are well on track and on our way to the sustainable development goals we have set for PVC; making PVC a material of choice offering safe products, contributing to society welfare. Achieving this vision is worth all efforts in our industry. I encourage all of you to help us to contribute to this vision because it’s up to us to make it happen.”
VinylPlus is the renewed ten-year Voluntary Commitment of the European PVC industry. The programme establishes a long-term framework for the sustainable development of the PVC industry by tackling a number of critical challenges in the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland.