How Sustainable is PVC?
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors consider sustainability to concern economic and social welfare factors as well as energy use and conservation. In the UK buildings account for around 40% of carbon emissions and that puts a considerable amount of pressure on property owners as well as designers. How do you go about repair and improving property in a sustainable way? Always, designers look for more sustainable ways to finish buildings, interestingly lead is one of the most sustainable materials we can use and timber is also frequently specified as a sustainable product.
There are other alternatives to timber and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is one of them.
We see PVC as fascias, verge boards, cladding and roofing. However, traditionally PVC has adopted a stigma for being a cheap and nasty product. Although it is discreetly a very impressive material.
PVC is slightly different from its family of plastics because it has a sustainable edge. Most plastics are produced entirely from Oil. However PVC is made by blending Oil with Salt and we know the latter naturally occurs in abundance. The chemist will know PVC as a naturally white and brittle compound. Additives are combined to make it more suitable for commercial use. For example it has a low melting point and so it is always blended with a heat stabiliser to make it usable. Then sometimes we want it to be ultraviolet (UV) resistant and sometimes we want it to be rigid.
In property PVC is overwhelmingly used for the production of drainage and water supply pipes as well as electrical cable insulation. We also see it used for windows and for cladding where it is known as PVCu or uPVC.
Unplasticised PVC (uPVC) is a rigid form of PVC. It has strong resistance to UV light and is very low maintenance. This makes it an ideal product especially in applications where access for decoration and maintenance is difficult which improves its life cycle cost through reduced maintenance costs. Amazingly, at the end of its useable life PVC and uPVC can be recycled.
To further strengthen its sustainable credentials there is a strong UK recycling industry for PVC. In the UK over 400 tonnes of PVC is recycled every month. Property owners can recycle it through nationwide collection depots. Furthermore in some cases it can have an exceedingly quick turn around before the material is remarketed as another product.
Waste, recycled PVC is broken down into small chips, impurities removed and the product refined to make pure white PVC. It can be recycled roughly 7 times which gives it a life span of around 140 years.
When it is a new product in much the same way a newly painted wall will smell, so will PVC. It omits a small amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). There are VOCs in most things that have an odour or smell. Once again Europe has committed to reducing these. It is always important to ventilate properties to remove bad air. Bad air can include; smells germs and disease, alcohols, VOCs and damp.
To the Landlord or Home Owner fitting PVC, take heart in its sustainable and versatile character and see that it is recycled responsibly.