Over the last 20 years, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, also known as “vinyl,” has become one of the most common and widely used plastics on the planet. It can be found in a wide range of basic and everyday goods, including packaging, home furnishings, children’s toys, automobile parts, building materials, footwear, and a plethora of other objects.
PVC has gained popularity in the manufacturing industry because it is highly adaptable, readily available, and, most significantly, inexpensive. However, because anything is so inexpensive, it always comes with a negative side and a higher price tag. In this situation, a low-cost, ostensibly harmless section of PVC pipework, or a vinyl play toy, is causing more harm than good to the community.
PVC leads to an onslaught of toxic chemicals that blanket our atmosphere and contaminate all life, from its manufacturing process to its disposal. Although plastics pose a significant threat to human health and the environment as a whole, most consumers are unaware of this. “PVC is the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics.” PVC-based goods have a 30-year average lifespan, with many exceeding 50 years. Since its emergence, this has meant that an increasing number of PVC items have reached their end-of-life and have ended up in our landfills. Unfortunately, unless we reduce our use and production of PVC, this will only continue to rise.
What is it about PVC that makes it so dangerous?
When it comes to chlorine use in manufacturing, PVC takes the cake, accounting for nearly 40% of all chlorine used in the United States. Chlorine is a key component in many of the world’s most toxic substances, such as CFCs, which deplete the ozone layer, Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT pesticides. Toxins derived from chlorine are continuously accumulating in the air, water, and in our food. Organochlorines from Chlorine are resistant to decomposition and can last in our atmosphere for decades, not years. Chlorine has been related in scientific studies to a variety of devastating and serious global health problems, including infertility, immune diseases, delayed childhood growth, hormone disruption, to cancers.
What is so concerning regarding organochlorines for humans and animals is that they are unable to be effectively expelled from our bodies. Such compounds build up in fatty tissue and accumulate, resulting in pollution levels that are millions of times greater than what is found in our atmosphere. We would all have measurable quantities of chlorinated contaminants in our bodies until we eliminate development of these compounds by the use of chlorine-based products such as PVC.
Dioxin is a by-product of the production, use, and combustion of chlorine-based chemicals. According to studies, PVC contributes more to the nation’s annual dioxin burden than any other industrial product. High levels of dioxin are generated during the various stages of PVC development. Since PVC has a history of being used in medical waste and refuse, incinerators are one of the most significant sources of dioxins. When a building is burned
down, ash and soot laden with dioxin are released into the air due to the melting of PVC construction materials.
Dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals ever invented. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also say that there is no such thing as a healthy level of dioxin exposure.
PVC has been dubbed the most toxic plastic, To achieve the desired properties, it must be mixed with a variety of additives. Plasticizers (such as phthalates), hazardous heavy metal stabilisers (such as lead), fungicides, and other toxic chemicals are examples of such harmful additives. PVC additives may wash off, allowing them to move into other materials or into the air.
Recycling of PVC
Vinyloop®, a new method introduced in 2002, was able to isolate PVC compounds from other materials, allowing them to be reprocessed into new products. Unfortunately, due to tighter EU regulations, the Italian-based business had to shut down operations in 2018 because their process could not extract low molecular weight phthalate plasticizers during recycling. Europe, on the other hand, is already paving the way for a more sustainable use of PVC, with projects like RecoVinyl and VinylPlus aimed at diverting as much waste from landfills as possible. These European PVC industry initiatives are aimed at advancing the PVC industry’s long-term growth. Their mission is to enhance manufacturing processes, reduce pollution, and advance recycling technologies.
What safe alternatives are there for PVC?
Thankfully, there are a plethora of natural and safer man-made material replacements that can fill the many roles and goods that PVC has assumed. Clay, glass, ceramics, natural rubber, latex, and linoleum are some of the traditional PVC substitutes. Also chlorine-free plastics are superior to PVC in situations where conventional materials cannot be used as a substitute. Recycled fabrics, such as Rpet polyester, are a better choice because they prevent discarded plastic from winding up in landfills or the oceans. An organisation called The centre for Health, Environment and Justice has created a concise table of PVC-free alternatives for common uses. As market awareness increases and there is a growing demand for PVC-free goods, governments and companies will face enormous pressure. Plastic producers, factory employees, and communities are all benefiting from ongoing studies and developments in the industry. PVC limitations and material substitution strategies have been enacted by a number of businesses and decision-makers, and this trend is expected to continue. As a result of the shift away from PVC, realistic, safer alternatives will become more accessible and affordable.
How can we bring about change?
1. Check the labels of the items you purchase and see what they are made of first. Avoid purchasing products made of or containing vinyl/PVC wherever possible.
2. Minimize the cumulative use of plastics wherever possible. Vigin plastics and PVC are used in many picnic mats and outdoor lifestyle items. This is why, in our special waterproof Australian art picnic mats, Sol Seekers Australia has chosen to avoid PVC and toxic adhesives. We believe that fabrics with recycled plastic content or rpet (recycled polyester) products are a safer option for our health.
3. If you are unsure about the composition of a product or a material, please contact the brand or manufacturer for clarification.
4. Disseminate information about the properties
For more information please visit us at https://www.solseekers.com.au/ for all things recyclable mats and so forth.