Threat to PVC recycling from legacy additives

Mon 02 Feb 2015

Much has been made of VinylPlus, the European PVC industry's voluntary programme of environmental commitments (although it has never been clear how much PVC-U window and door waste has been recycled in the UK).

Now the PVC industry has been posed a problem by Commission Decision 2014/955/EU which amends the EU Directive on waste. The new Annex III specifies concentration thresholds of hazardous substances which risk classifying the majority of post-consumer PVC waste as hazardous, because of additives used in the past.

The PVC industry is to be applauded for making efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its windows and doors. But we need to take their sustainability and recycling claims with (ahem) a pinch of salt.

Cradle-to-grave Life Cycle Assessment research by Heriot Watt University provides the evidence that wood and wood-based windows made to Wood Window Alliance standards have far lower overall environmental impacts than PVC-U. This is reinforced by BRE's Green Guide to Specification which gives all WWA timber windows an A+ rating.

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