PVC4Cables hosted in Berlin its second biennial conference with the theme In PVC Cables we Trust! Innovation and Sustainability for Smart Electrical Systems. Over 90 representatives of the European PVC cable industry debated the future of the sector, focusing in particular on research and development (R&D), sustainable development and market trends.

At the global level, PVC remains the most used material,” confirmed Astrid Aupetit, Senior Research Analyst of AMI Consulting, “with 53% of the processed compounds’ volumes, and an estimated growth of 1-1.5% in the coming years. In Europe, PVC maintains its leadership among the materials used in the low-voltage cable industry.

PVC is an excellent choice thanks to the versatility of its formulations; the easy processing; its excellent insulation properties; its performance in terms of resistance to fire and atmospheric agents, and its cost-efficiency. “In PVC cables,” explained Professor Alessandro Marangoni of Althesys, “the higher the PVC content in the cable, the lower the costs for the cable owners as calculated by the TCO methodology.” Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is the assessment methodology designed to calculate the lifetime costs of acquiring, operating and maintaining a product. “Furthermore, on the basis of the PVC recycling Cost-Benefit Analysis (copper recovery not included), the higher the quantity of PVC in the cable, the higher the net benefits of recycling in comparison to landfill and incineration.”

Although PVC is considered a mature material by many, the research and innovations in formulations developed in recent years has led to very promising results. “Cable formulations based on P-PVC (plasticised PVC) can be improved,” said Professor Enrico Boccaleri, Università del Piemonte Orientale, “in particular concerning thermal stability and HCl release reduction, by the use of nanomaterials.
In Italy, we have developed compounds for PVC cables with low smoke acidity and pretty good fire performance,” stated Gianluca Sarti, representative of the Compounds for Cables Group of PVC Forum Italia. “Our research has shown that we can produce PVC compounds with a smoke acidity 25 time lower in comparison to standard compounds currently used. Tests are currently ongoing to improve performance even further.” Providing an update on flame retardancy with low smoke and low acidity, Professor Camillo Cardelli, Researcher at i-Pool, underlined that “PVC can obtain the highest fire-reaction results compared with any thermoplastic material if properly formulated with suitable additives and flame-retardant fillers.”

Based on these premises, Erica Lo Buglio, PVC4Cables and Marco Piana, Director of PVC Forum Italia, presented the new PVC4Cables brochure on how to choose PVC cables under the CPR, demonstrating the ability of PVC cables to meet the individual specifications of intended-use/fire-risk with competitive costs.

Roland Dewitt of ACCIPIS and Chris Howick, Product Regulation Manager of INOVYN updated participants respectively on standardisation relevant for the cable industry and the current regulatory status in Europe for the Medium-Chain Chlorinated Paraffins under REACH and RoHS.

In terms of sustainability, presenting his new LCA study on energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with the production, use and final disposal of PVC cables, José M. Baldasano, Professor at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, stated that “the electrical cable that presents the best results, according to the environmental indicators considered, is PVC with 25% recycled material in its composition.”

Recycling is, of course, one of PVC’s strong points. Speaking on challenges and opportunities in making PVC cables circular, Ingrid Verschueren, General Manager of Recovinyl®, highlighted “the excellent performance achieved in 2018 in PVC cables recycling, with 151,506 tonnes recycled and a 20.3% increase over 2017.” Since 2000, more than 1.1 million tonnes of PVC cables have been recycled in the framework of the Vinyl 2010 and VinylPlus® programmes, saving nearly 2.3 million of CO2 emissions.

PVC cables recyclability was also underlined by Piero De Fazio, Senior Researcher of ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), while illustrating the PVC Upcycling Project: from de-manufacturing, with recovery and recycling of PVC electrical cables from energy plants, to re-manufacturing of products with low environmental impact.

Some practical examples on analytical services and certifications were presented by Gerald Aengenheyster, Managing Director of SKZ-Testing GmbH. Stefan Eingärtner, Technical Director of VinylPlus®, illustrated the VinylPlus® Product Label, the sustainability certification scheme for PVC products developed by VinylPlus® with BRE (Building Research Establishment) and The Natural Step.

Closing the conference, Zdenek Hruska, PVC4Cables Project Manager, emphasised that the concrete results achieved in the first two years of intense work by the PVC4Cables Platform were possible “thanks to the collaboration among PVC resin manufacturers, stabilisers’ and plasticisers’ producers, converters, industry experts, universities and research bodies, that has given a new impulse to the environmentally responsible innovation in the PVC cables sector.”