PVCPipes – Ideal Candidates for the Circular Economy
‘PVC Pipes are ideal candidates for the circular economy’. So said Steve Tan, Executive Director of PVC4Pipes, speaking at the TEPPFA Forum 2014 held in Brussels on April 29th which was organised as the first official satellite event of ‘Green Week 2014’. Steve was sharing the platform with luminaries including Karl Falkenberg, Director General of the DG Environment, Brigitte Dero, General Manager of VinylPlus as well as NGO representatives including Piotr Barczak of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), who debated the topics relating to the circular economy during the first workshop of the event.
Steve pointed out that it is possible to recycle rigid PVC eight times or more without any loss of properties, so that, since PVC pipes have a service life of at least 50 years, the material used to make them could, in effect, last for 400 years, thus emphasising the sustainability credentials of PVC pipes.
In addition PVC foam core pipes, which are made in such a way that a layer of rigid foamed PVC is sandwiched between two ‘skins’ of solid PVC (see photo), are the perfect place to put recycled rigid PVC, which can come from PVC pipes, window profiles, bottles and other post-consumer sources. Provided that the recyclate is ground down to a size of less than 800 microns, the properties of the foam core pipes are unaffected by the presence in the foamed layer of impurities such as glass, aluminium and rubber, which may be present if the recyclate has come, for instance, from recycled PVC windows.
PVC foam core pipe.
During the discussions it became clear that, while a ban on plastics landfill is necessary, more has to be done to permit the wider re-use of material recycling especially in terms of REACH and other regulatory compliance. This was emphasised by Steve Tan in his presentation in which he pointed out that the large market for PVC foam core pipes in Europe could, in principle, accommodate all of the 240+ thousand tonnes of rigid PVC which were recycled in 2012 under the auspices of VinylPlus. However, threats to this encouraging progress are coming from the inclusion in Annex XV (the Candidate List) of ADCA*, the agent used to make the foam layer in foam core pipes and the way in which so-called legacy additives will be treated under REACH, the EU Waste Directive and CLP Regulations.
PVC4Pipes has issued a Position Paper on ADCA which goes in to more detail about the subject and proposes a more appropriate method to control any risks associated with the use of ADCA. To see the Position Paper, click here.
* Azodicarbonamide = Azo bis-Formamide (CAS No. 123-77-3)