Similarly, as virgin PVC, recycled PVC can be used in both rigid and flexible forms. Application-specific optimization of the chemical composition plays a crucial role in the use of PVC. Consequently, depending on the application the recycled PVC can be used for the manufacture of articles directly or mixed with virgin PVC or other plastics like acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), etc. For example, windows made from unplasticized PVC (PVC-U) can include 100% recycled material. Further applications for recycled PVC are building, transport, packaging, electrical/electronic. Nowadays, most of the recycled PVC is used for road (under)construction, agriculture, and manufacture of various films and covers. Typical products are, for example, flooring or wall coverings, shower curtains or curtain rods, stables, walls, drainage, mats, etc. Furthermore, recycled PVC can also be used in products for traffic management, such as bases for traffic signs and traffic cones.
Currently, applications of the mechanically recycled PVC in food or medical sectors are not possible due to the technical limitations of the corresponding recycling technologies and high demands on material purity.
Virgin PVC is a durable thermoplastic with a density in the range of 1,38 to 1,64 g/cm3 and an excellent chemical resistance. Thanks to its chemical structure, it can be modified according to the application-specific requirements and used across a wide range of technical, food-grade, and medical applications. PVC is available in either rigid or flexible form and various colors.
In general, the major challenge of PVC recycling is the high chlorine content in raw PVC. Initiatives of the European and global PVC industry like RecoVinyl, Recofloor, and VinylPlus focus on the recycling of PVC and aim for efficient use of resources and reduction of inappropriate waste disposal, enabling the development of effective recycling technologies and corresponding value-added chains for many types of PVC. Commercially available PVC recyclates with good quality are typically manufactured using mechanical recycling. Additionally, chemical recycling can be used to convert PVC into its chemical components, which can be used afterward as a feedstock for the manufacture of PVC.
Various approaches like the use of additives or surface treatment methods can be used to improve material properties of PVC recyclates for their use as a substitution for virgin PVC.
Typically, post-consumer PVC waste material comes from window frames, pipes, house cladding, ports, roofing, or insulating pipes, coverings, and electricity distribution boxes. Products made of PVC are generally used for a relatively long time. Consequently, the chemical composition of post-consumer recyclates needs careful consideration in terms of the current regulations. Currently, there are various sophisticated recycling schemes worldwide aiming at recycling large amounts of post-consumer PVC materials.
Post-industrial PVC materials are remnants from the processing of virgin PVC such as sprues, sawdust, corners, and strips, as well as start-up and shut-down scraps such as lumps and strips. The recycled PVC is usually available in the form of granules, regrind, or powder.