Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a polymerisation of vinyl chloride monomer created from ethylene and chlorine. It is one of the most widely produced and versatile plastics.
Characteristics of PVC plastic
- A thermoplastic material, it is lightweight, chemically inert and harmless.
- It is a white, brittle solid.
- It cannot be diluted with alcohol.
- It has a density of between 1.32 -1.42 g/cm3.
- It is abrasion resistant, has good impact resistance and mechanical strength.
- It is a very durable material, classified as a long-life product, with a usage period of up to 50 years.
- PVC is a highly valued material in the construction industry because it is a poor conductor, i.e. because of its insulating capacity.
With the addition of plasticisers, it can become a more flexible or rigid material and this makes it suitable for a variety of applications. In fact, it comes in 2 forms:
- Rigid, which is used for example in the construction of pipes.
- Flexible, which is used for cables or toys.
To obtain PVC, petroleum and salt are used as raw materials. To obtain it, oil has to be cracked (breaking the chemical bonds of the compound and obtaining various uses and properties). This is how ethylene is obtained, which when mixed with the chlorine in sodium chloride, creates ethylene dichloride, which will later become vinyl chloride. When polymerised, polyvinyl chloride is created. Before it is used in the manufacture of materials, stabilisers or plasticisers, among others, are added.
PVC is the least petroleum-dependent plastic and is a 100% recyclable and widely recycled material worldwide. Its recycling is both economically and technologically viable. Recycled PVC has different applications and is used in the manufacture of many products: hoses, brushes, brooms, profiles...
It can be recycled in different ways:
- Mechanical recycling: the most commonly used. There are two types of PVC, those from industry and those from solid urban waste. The waste is sorted, ground, re-used if necessary and transformed into new products. The difference is that post-consumer waste has to be cleaned before processing.
- Chemical recycling: waste goes through chemical processes to be broken down into more elementary products such as gases or oils.
- Energy recycling: waste is incinerated in a controlled manner to recover the energy contained in the material.
- Recycling by solvents: this is done by the technology of chemical dissolution of PVC through solvents. It requires a high level of control of the production unit and high investment.
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