Vinyl plays a major role in delivering and sustaining the quality, comfort and safety of modern life-styles. Its impressive ratio of cost to performance also means that people of all income groups can enjoy these benefits.
Vinyl has been used in products for decades without any evidence of harm to human health. Vinyl is used in medical products such as blood bags and tubings. Alternative materials may not be available or may not offer the important performance characteristics that vinyl offers for these and other uses. In another example of its safety, vinyl is used in pipes certified to meet American National Standards Institute for safe use in drinking water service.
Vinyl is one of the most energy efficient materials of construction during its complete life cycle consisting of its manufacturing, conversion to applications, transportation and use. As Vinyl contains only about 45% of hydrocarbon, it has least impact on natural hydrocarbon resources. It is the largest and most stable sink for chlorine produced by the chloro alkali industry – which is the backbone of large industries like alumina, paper, textile etc. In absence of Vinyl available as a sink, chlorine will create unimaginable disaster on environment in terms of life.
It is also important to note that most of the concerns about Vinyl are related to its flexible applications. These are not regarding Vinyl as such but are related to use of certain stabilisers and plasticisers used in the Vinyl compounds. Vinyl industry globally has responded to such concerns with elimination of certain types of chemicals like heavy metal based stabilisers in the compounds. Though repeated in depth research studies on effect of certain phthalate plasticisers have established that they do not have any adverse effect on human health, industry has developed use of alternatives in specific application areas to respond to such perception driven concerns.
Today, Vinyl is probably the world’s most researched plastic/polymer:
- Manufacturing facts: Extremely strict guidelines govern Vinyl manufacture and workers’ exposure.
- Application facts: A substantial volume of research and over 50 years of experience, support the fact that Vinyl can be safely used even in the most sensitive of applications (such as medical devices).
- End of life facts: Vinyl is one of the most recyclable of polymers but can be disposed of, if required, quite safely.
Vinyl is a synthetic material derived from natural resources (oil and salt) like many others used in our modern world, and is one of the most scientifically investigated substances on the planet. Investigations have consistently found that far from being the problem material that some NGOs have portrayed it to be, science indicates that it is not very different from other materials and indeed possesses some interesting natural advantages.
The magnitude of CO2 emission for the material we use throughout its lifecycle, from production to consumption and disposal, is an important factor when considering the global warming issue. Vinyl is proven as a material with minimal environmental load in terms of CO2 emission, when compared with metal or glass products for the same application. The carbon foot print of Vinyl also compares favourably against other polymers requiring relatively less energy in production due to the manufacturing process of its raw material, VCM. According to the results of eco-profiles published by PlasticsEurope – the association which represents all plastic material producers – Vinyl requires only about 80% of the energy required for production of other major polymers. This has positive environmental effects, such as fewer CO2 emissions from production processes.
57% of Vinyl is made out of chlorine, which is derived from common salt that is abundant on earth. Therefore Vinyl contributes significantly to saving oil, which is a non renewable resource, in contrast to other plastics whose composition depends entirely on oil.
Plastics are often perceived as symbols of throwaway or single use. However, in reality plastics are durable materials that do not rust or corrode. Vinyl is an exceptionally durable plastic, used for instance in water supply and sewage pipes, which can be used for over 50 years. Most of Vinyl products are used in durable applications. More than half of all Vinyl products are long life products with service lives of over 15 years. Vinyl is a material well-suited to recycling. It has the longest history of recycling among plastics, and is the most advanced in mechanical recycling.