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Environmental Product Declarations of the European Plastics Manufacturers

Polyvinylchloride (PVC)
Emulsion polymerisation
This Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is based
upon life cycle inventory (LCI) data from PlasticsEuropes
Eco-profile programme. It has been prepared according to
PlasticsEuropes Product Category Rules (PCR) for
Uncompounded Polymer Resins and Reactive Polymer
Precursors (June 2006). EPDs provide environmental
performance data, but no information on the economic
and social aspects which would be necessary for a
complete sustainability assessment. Further, they do not
imply a value judgment between environmental criteria.
This EPD describes the production of the PVC polymer
from cradle to gate (from crude oil and salt extraction to
powder coming out the polyvinyl chloride manufacturing
plant). Please keep in mind that comparisons cannot be
made on the level of polymers alone: it is necessary to
consider the full life cycle of an application in order to
compare the performance of different materials and the
effects of relevant life cycle parameters. This EPD is
intended to be used by member companies, to support
product-orientated environmental management; by users
of plastics, as a building block of life cycle assessment
(LCA) studies of individual products; and by other
interested parties, as a source of life cycle information.

Description of the product and the

production process
on chlorine and the relevant intermediates EDC and VCM.
This EPD is for emulsion polyvinyl chloride (E-PVC). E-PVC
Information on the production of fuels, energy and the
accounts for 1015% of the EU PVC market. The functional
main hydrocarbon resources was derived from the reports
unit, to which all data given in this EPD refer, is 1kg of
of the International Energy Agency. Data for ancillary
E-PVC polymer (without additives).
operations and transport were obtained from other
Emulsion polymerisation manufacturers and operators as well as publicly available
LCI databases. Mass allocation was used for multi-output
E-PVC is produced through batch emulsion, continuous
processes. Vertical averaging was performed to take into
emulsion, or micro-suspension polymerisation. All three
account company- and site-specific production routes and
routes produce an aqueous latex, i.e. a very fine suspen-
to protect confidentiality.
sion of PVC polymer with mean particle sizes between 0.1
and 3m and thus much smaller than those produced by Use phase and end-of-life management
suspension polymerisation. Liquid vinyl chloride is insolu-
By choosing suitable stabilisers and plasticisers, PVC can
ble in water and disperses to fine droplets when mechani-
be converted into a wide variety of different products.
cally agitated in presence of an emulsifier. The reaction
E-PVC can be extruded in rigid profiles when high surface
takes place in pressurised vessels under the influence of
gloss and smoothness are required. But mainly,
heat, initiators and/or catalysts. In the batch process, the
E-PVC is dispersed in plasticiser to produce a mix known
polymerisation takes place at the VCMwater interface
as plastisol. Plastisol is spread or sprayed, then
with a water-soluble initiator. In the continuous process,
heat-cured. Typical applications are cushion flooring, wall
VCM, emulsifiers and initiator are fed into the reactor and
coverings, coated fabrics, gloves, rotational and slush
PVC latex is withdrawn continuously. Alternatively,
mouldings, such as interior car parts, steel coatings and
micro-suspension produces latex with a wider particle size
automotive under-body sealants.
distribution: here, polymerisation takes place within the
For responsible end-of-life management, ECVM recom-
dispersed VCM droplets, with an initiator highly soluble in
mends recycling, as far as economically feasible and envi-
VCM, but not in water. In each case, the reaction is
ronmentally sensible. Alternatively, feedstock recycling or
exothermic and heat is removed in order to keep
energy recovery can be conducted in specialized plants
temperatures constant. Latex is transferred to a
equipped for recycling hydrochloric acid. In LCA studies,
blow-down vessel; unreacted monomer is extracted,
credits for recovered products should be awarded on the
recovered and recycled back to the polymerisation reactor.
basis of substituted virgin materials, if functionally equivalent.
The polymer particles are then dried.
Data sources and allocation
Environmental performance
All data refer to a European industry average (reference
year 2005); all calculations were updated in 2006. ECVMs The tables below show the environmental performance
and PlasticsEuropes member companies supplied indicators associated with the production of 1 kg of
information on the production of hydrocarbon precursors, emulsion PVC polymer (E-PVC, without additives).
Input parameters (including additive producers and converters), signed in
March 2000 and revised in 2005, is an integrated
Indicator Unit Value approach to deliver responsible cradle-to-grave
Non-renewable materials management. This Commitment is now known under the
Minerals g 796 name Vinyl 2010: it addresses key issues across the PVC
Fossil fuels g 1,490 lifecycle. Vinyl 2010 contains quantifiable targets.
Progress reports show that European PVC industry has
Uranium g 0.014
been forging ahead with continuous environmental
Renewable materials (biomass) g 0.626 improvement and resource efficiency through a learning
Water use1) g 11,000 by doing approach, strengthening the partnership within
Non-renewable energy resources2) their supply chain. More information is available on:
for energy MJ 36.68
for feedstock MJ 27.70
Renewable energy resources
Additional technical information
(biomass)2) PVC is easy to recycle mechanically several times in
for energy MJ 1.52 conventional equipment. Large quantities of pre-
consumer PVC are already being recycled, and the
for feedstock MJ 0 recycling of post-consumer PVC is increasing steadily.
Only process water, cooling water not included. Other options are mechanical recycling by dissolution
Calculated as upper heating value (UHV). processes (extracting PVC from products), or feedstock
recycling (recovery of a basic chemical substance). The
Output parameters main difficulty for the recycling of post-consumer PVC is in
collecting suitable waste at an acceptable cost. This is the
Indicator Unit Value
case for all plastics as well as many other materials.
GWP3) kg CO2 eq 2.500 PVC, like other thermoplastics, has intrinsic energy, which
ODP4) g CFC-11 eq n/a5) can be utilized through energy recovery operations. The
AP 4)
g SO2 eq 7.000 chlorine part ends up in the form of hydrochloric acid,
POCP4) g Ethene eq 0.450 which can also be recovered, purified and re-used.
Flexible PVC will generally contribute a higher energy
NP4) g PO4 eq 0.800
content than rigid PVC, although even rigid PVC has a
Dust/particulate matter g PM10 0.750 calorific value similar to paper. Recovering both hy-
Total particulate matter g 0.827 drochloric acid and energy significantly increases the
Waste eco-efficiency of incineration or other recovery options.
Non-hazardous kg 0.225 Landfilling is the least sustainable waste treatment option
for all plastics. A study carried out in 20022003 in order
Hazardous kg 0.005
to compare different end-of-life treatment options for PVC-
IPCC 2004 4) CML 2002 rich waste concluded that all recovery/recycling options
Relevant LCI entries are below quantification limit. are preferable to landfill.

Additional environmental and Additional economic information

health information ECVMs member companies undertake further efforts
to reduce climate impacts, e.g. by introducing energy-
The methodology for assessing toxicity impacts on saving technologies such as membrane electrolysis. PVC
humans and the environment within LCA is still subject to is among the polymers with the lowest releases of
scientific debate and cannot support business decisions greenhouse gases per kg. The remaining greenhouse gas
yet. Additionally, emissions potentially contributing to tox- emissions related to PVC production can be addressed,
icity impacts originate essentially from the combustion of e.g. through offsetting, as offered by a number of non-
fuels for energy production and from oil refinery, not from profit organisations. For typical PVC applications the cost
specific PVC processes (assessed according to CML 2002). of offsetting these remaining emissions amounts to less
ECVM has issued Industry Charters for the production of than 1% of the product price. This demonstrates how
VCM in 1994 and for E-PVC in 1998. These Charters set economic and environmental aspects can be combined to
tight limits on VCM emissions and on the maximum achieve the fastest possible progress towards a
amount of residual VCM present in PVC resin. The sustainability objective.
inter-governmental Oslo and Paris Commissions for the
Protection of the North Sea (OSPAR) later issued two
decisions on emissions from VCM and S-PVC plants and a
recommendation for emissions from E-PVC plants: limits
imposed by OSPAR for VCM emissions are broadly in line
with the limits specified in the Charter. The companies
that signed the charters undergo an independent third-
party verification of compliance. The levels of monomer and
other volatile organic compounds in PVC resin are very low
and do not present any health or environmental risk.
The Voluntary Commitment of the PVC Industry
Company/Association Programme owner
European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers (ECVM) PlasticsEurope
Avenue E van Nieuwenhuyse 4, Box 3 Avenue E van Nieuwenhuyse 4, Box 3
B1160 Brussels, Belgium B1160 Brussels, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (2) 676 74 41, Fax: +32 (2) 676 74 47 Tel.: +32 (2) 675 32 97, Fax: +32 (2) 675 39 35
Enquiries: E-mail:
Programme manager
For copies of this EPD, for the underlying LCI data
Five Winds International (eco-profile), and for additional information, please refer
This Environmental Product Declaration has been to
reviewed by Five Winds International. It is approved
according to the Product Category Rules PCR 2006-06 for
Uncompounded Polymer Resins and Reactive Polymer Product photographs on cover with kind permission of
Precursors and ISO FDIS 14025. Hydro Polymers.
Registration number: PlasticsEurope-2008-0002; PlasticsEurope: Polyvinylchloride PVC (Emulsion
validation expires on 31 December 2011. Polymerisation). Eco-profiles of the European Plastics
Industry. Brussels, April 2006.
PlasticsEurope: Product Category Rules (PCR) for
Uncompounded Polymer Resins and Reactive Polymer
Precursors. Brussels, June 2006.
ISO FDIS 14025: Environmental Labels and Declarations
TypeIII Environmental Declarations. Geneva, 2005.

Acidification potential, AP An environmental impact cate- gory (over-fertilisation). Emissions such as phosphate, ni-
gory (acid rain). Emissions (e.g. sulphur oxides, nitrous ox- trate, nitrous oxides, and ammonia from transport, energy gen-
ides, ammonia) from transport, energy generation, combustion eration, agriculture (fertilisers) and wastewater increase the
processes, and agriculture cause acidity of rainwater and thus growth of aquatic plants and can produce algae blooms that
damage to woodlands, lakes and buildings. Reference sub- consume the oxygen in water and thus smother other aquatic
stance: sulphur dioxide. life. This is called eutrophication and causes damages to rivers,
CML 2002 LCA Guide of the Leiden University provides the lakes, plants, and fish. Reference substance: phosphate.
characterisation factors for calculating environmental impacts. Offsetting Financing activities which compensate the cli-
Environmental product declaration, EPD A standardised mate effect (and often at the same time also the use of non-re-
method (ISO 14025) of communicating the environmental per- newable resources) resulting from the production.
formance of a product or service based on LCA data. Ozone depletion potential, ODP An environmental impact
Ethylene dichloride, EDC A precursor of the vinyl chloride category (ozone hole). The index ODP is calculated as the
monomer (VCM). contribution to the breakdown of the ozone layer that would re-
Global warming potential, GWP An environmental impact sult from the emission of 1kg of the substance in question in re-
category (greenhouse effect). Energy from the sun drives the lation to the emission of 1kg of CFC-11 as a reference substance.
earths weather and climate, and heats the earths surface. In Photochemical ozone creation potential, POCP An envi-
turn, the earth radiates energy back into space. Atmospheric ronmental impact category (summer smog). The index used
greenhouse gases (water vapour, carbon dioxide, and other to translate the level of emissions of various gases into a com-
gases) are influencing the energy balance in a way that leads to mon measure to compare their contributions to the change of
an increased average temperature on earths surface. Problems ground-level ozone concentration. The index POCP is calculated
arise when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases as the contribution to ozone formation close to the ground due
increases due to the man-made (or anthropogenic) green- the substance in question in relation to the emission of 1kg of
house effect: this additional greenhouse effect caused by ethene as a reference substance. NOTE: Due to recent method-
human activities may further increase the average global tem- ology developments, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide are
perature. The index GWP is calculated as a multiple equivalent now taken into account for POCP calculation; accordingly, fig-
of the absorption due to the substance in question in relation to ures cannot be compared anymore with previous POCP results.
the emission of 1kg of carbon dioxide, the reference substance, Polyvinyl chloride, PVC A halogenated polymer based on
over 100years. the raw materials petrochemicals (oil and gas) and salt (sodium
Intergovernmental panel of climate change, IPCC Source chloride).
of updated GWP characterisation factors. Vinyl chloride monomer, VCM A precursor of polyvinyl chlo-
Life cycle assessment, LCA A standardised management ride (PVC).
tool (ISO 1404044) for appraising and quantifying the total en- Product category rules, PCR A set of rules for the prepara-
vironment impact of products or activities over their entire life tion of LCA and EPD within a functionally defined class of prod-
cycle of particular materials, processes, products, technologies, ucts. A PCR document is a necessary component of any Type III
services or activities. Environmental Declaration programme (ISO 14025).
Nutrification potential, NP An environmental impact cate-

January 2008