In addition to being safe, durable, affordable and recyclable, there is also a strong and reliable scientific evidence that PVC pipes have a lower product environmental footprint than non-plastic materials.

LCA – a life cycle approach

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a quantitative and objective method to evaluate environmental loads – consumption of material and energy resources, emission of environmental load substances and wastes – through all phases of a product. This includes resource extraction, production, use and waste disposal. For LCAs to be accurate they must follow strict ISO standards.

Favourable LCAs for PVC pipes compared to non-plastic materials

Independent comparative LCA studies by the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) and critically reviewed by the Austrian sustainability consultancy Denkstatt for the European Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (TEPPFA) document that PVC pipes have the lowest environmental impact in a number of piping applications. The LCA studies all comply with the EN 15804, ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards.

Click on the icons below to see the different LCAs:

Four key reasons to use LCAs

By using LCAs correctly it can be ensured that:

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Product systems are not erroneously favoured or condemned on the basis of individual results

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Developments do not inadvertently shift or even increase environmental impact but in fact reduce it

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The resources available are directed in such as way that they achieve the greatest environment benefit for the entire system

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PVC product systems have been investigated using LCA methodology in almost all significant application areas in terms of production quantity

Eco-profiles and Environmental Product Declarations

Eco-profiles form part of LCAs. Whereas LCAs are cradle-to-grave analyses of the environmental impact of a product, eco-profiles stop at the factory gate ("Cradle-to-gate"). The eco-profiles of PVC were fully updated in 2015.

The key impacts calculated in these eco-profiles are aggregated according to a standard methodology and published in Environmental Declarations. These Environmental Declarations are similar to an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) but, as PVC resin is not a finished product, the term Environmental Declaration is more appropriate.

PVC production processes have been continually improved in recent years and their environmental impact steadily reduced. The European PVC industry recognises that, along with all other manufacturing industries, it must pursue continual environmental improvement.

About Life Cycle Inventory

It is important to collect and provide proper LCI (Life Cycle Inventory) data for correct LCA evaluations.

According to the eco-profile data published by PlasticsEurope for general purpose plastics, there is no remarkable difference in the process energy from extraction of oil to plastic production between PVC and the other polymers.

PVC, of which more than half of its weight is composed of common salt, requires about half the feedstock energy needed for the polymers based mainly on hydrocarbons. The sum of process energy and feedstock energy for suspension PVC is therefore only about 60 MJ/kg, below the corresponding sum for those other polymers.