A new set of PVC eco-profiles and environmental product declarations from PlasticsEurope has shown an improvement in the material’s eco-credentials.
New data published by the trade body has revealed VCM’s (Vinyl Chloride Monomer) and PVC’s global warming potential decreased by about 2-3 percent from 2006 to 2015.
This reduction in environmental impact, it says, is largely attributed to more efficient use of energy in production processes, as well as investment in modern manufacturing plant and processing equipment with additional heat and energy recovery capabilities.
Over the past 20 years PlasticsEurope, in collaboration with its product groups such as the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers (ECVM), has published more than 70 Eco-profile reports covering all the main polymers.
This latest dataset - the fourth full PVC inventory - is based on data collected among ECVM member companies for the reference year 2013 by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) practitioner IFEU. It covers production of VCM as well as suspension and emulsion PVC, and compares it to the 2006 dataset to measure progress over time. A third-party review was carried out by DEKRA.
Countries where manufacturing plants contributed information include Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
One of the early conclusions of this comparison was that, since all production steps starting from raw materials are included, it can be difficult to assess progress of individual manufacturing steps.
Arjen Sevenster, ECVM’s Technical and Environmental Affairs Manager, comments: “Comparing the new dataset with the previous one (2006) indeed shows a slight increase of some environmental impacts such as Global Warming Potential (GWP).
“As the 2006 model is not accessible anymore, a more in-depth analysis was carried out. It was found that this trend is entirely due to an apparent worsening of the corresponding impacts of ethylene and chlorine production, the two main precursors of VCM. Concerning chlorine production, this increase is mostly caused by the over-representation of countries with comparably high specific GWP per kWh electricity.”
In order to eliminate the effects of such changes, a comparison scenario was created using the LCI results for both ethylene and chlorine from the 2006 Eco-profile under the current model. It then appears that the GWP of VCM and PVC decreased by about 2-3 % from 2006 to 2015. This decrease can be attributed to an increased energy efficiency of the VCM/PVC production processes and to a reduction in GWP of electricity production throughout Europe.
According to Arjen Sevenster, this dataset ‘is assessed to be a reliable and high-quality representation of VCM, S-PVC and E-PVC produced in Europe’.
He added: “Moreover, it confirms the continuous progress of VCM and PVC manufacturing operations in Europe. In general, better production processes are reducing the environmental impact of PVC manufacturing.”
About the eco-profiles
PlasticsEurope’s eco-profiles are representative of the European industry average production and their quality is acknowledged by LCA users and practitioners. They provide detailed “cradle-to-gate” life cycle inventories covering all production stages from extraction of raw materials until shipping the polymer out of the production site.
To access to new data set, please click here.
 IFEU Heidelberg GmbH, Germany
 Matthias Schulz – Product Line Manager, Product Sustainability, DEKRA Assurance Services GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany