Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is a synthetic resin made from the polymerization of vinyl chloride. It was first invented by the German chemist, August Wilhelm von Hofmann in 1872, but was not patented until 1913, by Friedrich Heinrich August Klatte, another German chemist.
A lightweight, rigid plastic in its pure form “unplasticized” (UPVC), it is also manufactured in a flexible “plasticized” form (PVC). Second only to polyethylene among the plastics in production and consumption, UPVC is durable and suitable for a wide range of domestic and industrial products, both for indoor and outdoor uses. It finds application in the construction sector, where its rigidity, impact strength, weatherproof attributes and flame resistance are useful qualities, for example in pipes, trunking, window and door frames, trims, cladding, and packaging. Other sectors include transport, healthcare, electrical where its excellent electrical insulation properties are ideal for cabling applications. Due to its rigidity, it must be extruded or moulded above 100 °C (212 °F). PVC is used for other products like raincoats, shower curtains, glazing seals, sleeves and flooring panels.
Further information about PVC:
Of all the plastics, PVC is the most energy efficient, requiring less energy to manufacture. Over half of the PVC is made from salt which is hugely abundant in nature, the rest is made of oil.
- Inherently difficult to ignite especially rigid PVC, naturally ‘0’ fire rated, does not support combustion
- Resistant to UV weathering, chemical attack, shock and abrasion. Especially useful for UPVC windows and exterior products – these are important sustainability criteria
- PVC life cycle analysis by independent studies are favourable compared with other manufactured materials (Source: British Plastics Federation: http://www.bpf.co.uk/plastipedia/polymers/PVC.aspx
Good electrical and thermal insulation properties used for most household wiring
- Good acoustic insulation
- PVC can be recycled. It is a “thermoplastic” and can be reheated and shaped into new products, or re-chipped
- The European PVC industry has a voluntary charter to annually recycle 800,000 tonnes/year of PVC by 2020 (Source: The VinylPlus® Voluntary Commitment – June 2011)
- The combination of longevity with minimal maintenance are very important issues with regard to sustainability.