When I first entered the plastics field, it was pretty common to encounter packaging made from polyvinyl chloride, made obvious by the “V” or “3” resin identification code (PDF) stamped on the article. Now, PVC packaging seems rarer, likely because of its growing “non-green” status, among other factors.
But overall, there’s still a growing amount of PVC being used, according to analysis by GBI Research, and most of this PVC demand is now in Asia. Globally, PVC demand grew from about 22 million tons in 2000 to 32 million in 2011, and GBI expects an annual growth rate of about 5% up through 2020. (Meanwhile, it’s also interesting to learn that in 2010, about 261,000 tons of post-consumer PVC was recycled in Europe – exceeding the ten-year target of 200,000 tons.)
Even more interesting is what the GBI analysts’ data reveals about PVC’s current main role: the construction sector, with a demand of about 18 million tons, over half of the total. By contrast, PVC demand in packaging applications in 2011 follows very far behind in second place, at 3.7 million tons.
Perhaps in response to PVC’s reduced role in packaging -- but especially because of the rise in regulatory activity against phthalate-based plasticizers -- compounders of flexible vinyl are looking for greener alternatives. Compounder PolyOne Corp. recently released its 94% bio-based reFlex™ plasticizer; this accompanied the Biovinyl™ compound Teknor Apex released awhile ago, using a bio-based plasticizer from one of Dow Chemical’s business units. (For more background, note the good overview article on phthalate and non-phthalate plasticizers that just appeared in Compounding World.)
But considering the usage distribution, maybe soon it won’t be pertinent to talk about vinyl much more in this blog – a blog, which, after all, is supposed to follow plastics in packaging, not construction.
P.S. – Plastics consultant Umberto Catignani alerted me about the upcoming (Aug. 26-29) RAPRA summer conference called Global Polymer Innovation Expo, in Ohio, USA. The conference agenda includes a number of sustainability-related topics, from wheat-straw fiber composites to polymers in hydraulic fracturing.
Mike Tolinski is the author of Plastics and Sustainability, published in Oct. 2011 by Wiley-Scrivener, and he is Contributing Editor for Plastics Engineering magazine of the Society of Plastics Engineers in the USA. His views have been shaped by his engineering, university, and journalism experience in the plastics and manufacturing industries over the past 22 years. You can follow Mike and be alerted on blog updates via Twitter.