PolyVinyl Chloride (PVC)
What does PVC stand for?
PVC is an acronym for PolyVinyl Chloride and is a thermoplastic polymer accidentally discovered in the 1920s and commonly used in construction. In general, PVCs are separated into two types, rigid and flexible.
What is PVC’s plastic number?
PVC is plastic number 3.
What are PVC’s properties?
PVC is biologically, chemically, water, and fire resistant making it suitable for many products especially in construction. While PVC is naturally rigid, plasticizers can be added to make PVC flexible.
PVC is relatively cheap to produce compared to all other plastics. It’s raw material is nearly 60% salt, therefore, it requires 20% less energy to produce compared to other plastics.
What are some things made with PVC?
A large usage of flexible PVC is in wire insulation (colored plastic wrapped around electrical wires). Flexible PVC can be found in clothing such as raincoats, rain boots, and leather-like fabrics. PVCs are also made into vinyl records and vinyl signs and billboards.
About 75% of all PVC resin (rigid) is made into construction materials such as piping & fittings, siding, flooring, windows, fencing, decking, roofing, wall coverings, etc.
PVC and the environment?
- Recycling – PVCs are rarely recycled, probably less than .5% of all PVC is recycled. Due to all the additives used to produce PVC, it is nearly impossible to initiate large scale recycling of PVC products.
- Dioxins – Manufacturing PVC poses major health concerns as dioxin (the most potent carcinogen known), ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride are released. Dioxins are associated with cancer, endocrine disruption, endometriosis, neurological damage, birth defects, impaired child development, and reproductive and immune system damage.
- The endlife of PVC is also a concern as it releases dioxins into the ground, water, and air.
- Phthalates – Phthalates are additives used to create flexible PVC. Phthalates have been in the media spotlight recently and have been associate with the risk of cancer and kidney and liver damage. PVCs are therefore not used in food or packaging related products.