PVC AUS 2018: Shaping the Future Conference

Advances in technology, sustainability and product stewardship over the last 20 years have helped to transform the PVC sector across Australia and turn vinyl into a sound choice of material, according to a 2018 Vinyl Council of Australia event.

The two-day Sydney event, which took place in March, titled PVC AUS 2018, shared the latest developments in PVC formulations and best practice manufacturing.

Vinyl Council Chief Executive Sophi MacMillan said the organisation is driving continuous improvement through the industry in Australia for both locally-made and imported products. She said this is driving change through PVC product supply chains.

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“One of the longest standing product stewardship programs in Australia, our PVC Stewardship Program is leading in many areas. These include its life-cycle approach, specific and measurable commitments, transparency, and focus on continuous improvement across the value chain.”

Currently 47 companies are signatories to the program, representing the majority of the Australian PVC industry. These companies include manufacturers of PVC resin, additives and end-products, PVC compounders and product importers. Major PVC applications represented in the program include companies manufacturing or importing packaging, cables, windows, flooring, pipes, formwork, medical products, and profiles.

Among the industry successes highlighted were a 99.45 per cent reduction in lead additive use since 2002, the signatories’ 90 per cent compliance with the PVC Industry Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Charter and several PVC recycling initiatives covering advertising banners, commercial vinyl flooring and medical devices.

In his US perspective on Vinyl for a Purpose-Driven Sustainable Development, Cristian Barcan, VP Sustainability & Industry Affairs at the Vinyl Institute covered key sustainability progress. This included a 90 per cent reduction in VCM (vinyl chloride monomer) emissions since 1983 and the elimination of lead and cadmium stabilisers. More than 450,000 tonnes of PVC are recycled annually in the US.

“Unprecedented challenges lie ahead, we have to change. We don’t have three planets of natural resources; doing more with less is needed to address the needs of the next generation,” Mr Barcan said.

Dr Tracy Wakefield, of Plustec Pty Ltd, outlined the benefits of uPVC Tilt n Turn windows and how their functionality, in terms of low-maintenance, ease-of-cleaning, security and superior ventilation are the future of windows in Australia – and crucially, suit its climate.

With 85 per cent of windows installed in Australian homes still single-glazed, Gerhard Hoffmann, of Greiner Extrusion, emphasised how the insect-proof, thermally-efficient, 100 per cent recyclable and corrosion-resistant properties of uPVC windows represent a cost-effective fenestration opportunity.

Advances in formulations were a key topic with Dane Tallen of stabiliser manufacturers Baerlocher, exploring how calcium-based solutions could provide cost-effective and sustainable solutions for injection-moulding applications. Dexter Chan, from Arkema, discussed the improved performance merits of acrylic impact modifiers in replacing chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) in rigid PVC.

Several updates on technology developments in the Australian PVC sector included a new chemical technology to separate PVC and laminated materials. Dennis Collins from PVC Separation explained how their two-stage chemical and environmentally-friendly process works for a variety of materials recycling, from PVC construction products to shoes, medical and food packaging items.

Summing up, the event Ms MacMillan concluded: “With a high calibre of speakers and content, our conference attracted nearly 150 people and has been a huge success. It has demonstrated that PVC, as a durable, low-carbon plastic with the potential for circularity, can contribute to shaping a more sustainable future for all.”

Vinyl Council research new solutions to recycle PVC

A Vinyl Council of Australia research project has identified new recycling approaches in a bid to use 1.2 million square metres of PVC advertising banners sent to Australian landfills each year.

The REMAKE Project researched the challenges of recycling vinyl coated polyester woven fabrics, including the 5000 tonnes of billboard skins, grain covers, and truck tarpaulins sent to landfill each year.

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Studies were launched into cost effective techniques to create end products and markets for the recycled material. These studies found a number of possible options, from bags, safety floor mats, garden containers and roof tiles.

Three of these designs are being assessed for commercial viability following prototyping.

The project has encouraged industry and government to invest more than $300,000 into PVC recycling. According to the Vinyl Council of Australia, finding a solution to recycling outdoor media is important as the cost of sending billboard skins to landfill is around $200,000 per year.

Commenting on the REMAKE project, Vinyl Council Chief Executive Sophi MacMillan said that more work is needed to find a long-term, market-based, viable solution.

“The durability, weatherability and flexibility of these materials make them an excellent choice for many applications, yet they have been previously difficult to recycle. As a priority recycling area, this project has shown great potential for recovering these resources for use in new products,” Ms MacMillan said.

“Further encouragement by government and the community of circular economy programs like ours would lift recycling rates, support reprocessing of complex products as well as generate jobs and promote innovation. This would lead to a step change in diverting difficult, but quality products from landfill and a move towards greater sustainability,” she said.

“While there is still more work to do, if we find a viable reprocessing technology and end product solution, then this has the potential to be replicated overseas.”