‘Problem’ PVC gets positive profile

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The threat to PVC is finally over – now it’s time to focus on the industry’s opportunities; that was the message for delegates at the British Plastics Federation’s (BPF) conference ‘PVC: The Positive Sustainable Procurement Choice’.

“PVC might be viewed as a bit of a frog but it’s worth kissing – inside there’s a princess,” Stefan Eingartner, general manager of VinylPlus, told delegates. “For example, PVC is further down the road of recycling and sustainability than other parts of the plastics industry,” he continued, “and the UK is a really good example of this success.”

But to development this promising start the entire vinyls value chain needs to be involved – processors, compounders and end users all need to work together.

However, the signs are already very encouraging – Eingartner pointed out that the European Union quotes the VinylPlus sustainability scheme as proof that voluntary environmental commitments can work. PVC, once seen as the unacceptable face of plastics, has transformed its image.

The event, held at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, was the thirteenth annual PVC conference run by the BPF and according to Philip Law, the federation’s public and industrial affairs director, there’s been a major shift in the public’s perception of the material over the years.

“During the period since our first meeting PVC has moved from an industrial boot hill to a position in the sunlit uplands of manufacturing, especially on the environmental front,” said Law.

But the change of perception has been hard fought, added Jason Leadbitter, Sustainability Manager at Ineos ChlorVinyls. “Our industry’s been brave – we were under direct attacks from Greenpeace. Very few environmental campaigners were prepared to listen about PVC’s sustainable credentials.”

Fortunately, the sustainability journey is now well underway and “rapid progress” is still being made, he added.

This change of perception, however, could be easily reversed, warned Roger Mottram, chairman of the BPF’s vinyls group. “Our industry needs to be more positive,” he said. The sector should be speaking less about what PVC doesn’t do and more about its positives, such as the energy-saving credentials of the material.

He stressed the need to promote PVC’s role in industries such as construction where the material’s use as high performance insulator fits in with the EU’s green targets for sustainability in the built environment.