Can PVC be Recycled?

By Omer Shoham
November 25, 2020

A successful recycling system is dependent on a long chain of people. From the product designer to the end user, through the waste collector, to the people at the waste treatment facility. It is a complicated system dictated by market demand, local regulations and prices.

It is true that consumers play a critical role, but I would like to address to the role of the product designers and the manufacturers, as those are the ones who should provide better alternatives to the end user.

I have spent a significant part of my time thinking how I can make a smaller ecological impact on our planet. In my professional life, my hope is to deliver products that I can truly stand behind. Products that provide valuable solutions to the end user but not less than that, conform to my moral values. I believe our challenge is to design our products in a way that will enable a fully recyclable product.

We know that some products made of plastic cannot be recycled, or are so difficult to recycle that to save the process they are usually being sent to landfills or to be incinerated. 

 

Resin Identification Codes (RIC) categories are used to differentiate polymers by a numerical classification but this system relates only to the plastic material and not to the product. It does not tell you how efficiently a product can be recycled.

To determine recyclability we must understand some basic terms:

 

1. What does Thermoplastic & Thermoset mean?

Thermoplastic vs. Thermoset

Plastic materials are divided to Thermoplastic Vs Thermoset. Thermoplastics are plastics that can be re-melted and re-molded into new products, therefore, recycled. Thermoset plastics are cross-linked to form an irreversible chemical bond. They cannot be re-formed and are non-recyclable.

PVC, for example, is a thermoplastic material. Foam PVC sheets and Solid PVC sheets such as PALIGHT®, PALOPAQUETM and PALBOARDTM, are some of the easiest products to recycle.  They can be reused, regrind, melted, and extruded time and time again.

 

2. Is it healthy?

Hygienic PVC Cladding System (Palclad Prime by PALRAM)

Most experts agree that you should not use food containers made of PVC. However, using PVC as print & display substrate has no effect on your health. In fact, there are some popular hygienic PVC cladding systems that act as antimicrobial guards in hospitals and food processing plants and conform to the highest health standards and regulations.

 

3. Not all applications are recyclable

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Coffee cups, made of two different materials, require special machines that separate the paper from the thin plastic layer, in order to be recycled.  That is why many recyclables thrown into a recycling bin do not even have the chance to end up at the recycling factory. Bubble wrap, plastic bags and straws, are other examples of products that are not recyclable.

 

The easiest items to recycle are those made from a single material, plastic sheets and water bottles for example. It is important to ask what is to be done with our product's scraps and leftovers after it has finished being useful. PVC sheets and their scraps, whether solid, foam or multilayered, are easy to recycle, as long as they are made of a single thermoplastic material. Compound sheets on the other hand, like aluminum composite material (ACM), are usually non-recyclable.

 

4. There is a limit to how many times you can recycle.

Recyclable Multilayer PVC (PALBOARD by PALRAM)

Plastic material can be recycled a limited number of times before its quality decreases, and products made using recycled materials must compete with the quality of virgin materials.

Smart product designers know how to use recycled materials to their advantage. For example, using recycled material for the product's core, which is the main component of the product, and using virgin resin only for the product's exterior, achieving high quality and performance without compromising sustainability.

Environmental Commitment

PALBOARDTM  is an excellent example. It is a great product to fabricate and print on. As a consumer, you know not only that recycled material is its main ingredient, but also that all users along the long supply chain of this product can do their part for recycling, as it is made of a single, recyclable material.

 

PALBOARDTM is made of more than 50% recycled PVC and is 100% recyclable. It is great for grooving, cutting and routing, has excellent ink adhesion and print retention, excellent resistance to chemicals, is easy to clean, and has a great weight to strength ratio.

 

Omer Shoham

About the Author:
Omer Shoham

Omer is the WW Graphics Business Manager at Palram. Through collaboration with printers and media consumers, he understands their professional pains and needs. He believes that keeping close to the end user and being creative is key to providing innovative solutions to the market.

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