As part of Everglaze Industries’ ongoing commitment to sustainability, we submitted extensive details and information on our products to Ecospecifier for their assessment and certification (PDF download). Ecospecifier’s role is to offer the assessment of products using known Australian and International Standards, independent test data, third party research and expert opinion.
That certification states that Everglaze products are likely to contribute to the achievement of Green Building rating tool credits and that they exhibit ecological and health preferable characteristics.
Cradle to Grave Assessment / Life Cycle Assessments
At least 60 LCAs and sustainability studies have been conducted on PVC since the early 1990s. There is currently no clear “winner” in LCAs as all materials/products have strengths and weaknesses, but there are often some that perform worse in all life cycle impact categories; assessments of PVC have never produced that outcome.
In 2000, The Natural Step (UK) completed an evaluation of the sustainability of PVC in which it said:
“Many LCAs have been carried out upon various applications of PVC; probably more than for any other material. Inevitably they are of differing credibility, although the overall weight of them suggests that PVC is no more environmentally unacceptable or unsustainable than alternative materials (including “natural” ones) in the short to medium term.”
Once the PVC has undergone the extrusion process, it requires no further surface treatment (unlike powdercoated aluminium or painted timber).
Production / Manufacture
More than 50% of PVC’s feedstock comes from salt, a plentiful resource. The remaining 43% of PVC comes from petroleum feedstock which means that PVC consumes proportionally less non-renewable resources than other polymers and some common building materials.
The embodied energy required for extruded, anodized aluminium is 227MJ/kg whilst PVC is only 70MJ/kg.
Dioxins are created in small amounts in a variety of synthetic and natural chemical processes. Agricultural burning off, incineration, forest fires, metal smelting, and certain industrial processes involving chlorine and other organic compounds all have the potential to create dioxins.
Dioxins are toxic and carcinogenic to some animals. The level of dioxins in the global environment peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In Japan dioxin emissions fell by 75% between 1977 and 1998.
In the USA dioxin emissions fell by 80% between 1987 and 1995.
A 1998 report for Environment Australia estimates that 60-80% of dioxin emissions in Australia arise from agricultural burning off, residential wood combustion and bushfires. Waste incinerators and halogen chemical manufacture (including chlorine and PVC production), together contribute less than 1% to the total.
Global levels of dioxins in the environment have been falling for 20 years. PVC production has trebled in that same period.
In response to a criticism made about the chlorine industry, the following expert professional associations issued statements of strong support for the benefits of chlorine chemistry to society:
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 1994
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 1994
Michigan Environmental Science Advisory Board, 1994
The American Medical Association, 1994
American Health Care Association, 1995
A 1996 study by the CSIRO concluded that:
“the adverse environmental effects of using PVC in building products are very small, and no greater than those for other materials.”
Updated editions of the CSIRO review have been published in 1998 and 2001 and have stated
“It can be concluded from the evidence sighted in this and preceding reports that the possible adverse human health and environmental effects of using PVC in building products is not greater than those of other materials.”
Nearly 12,000 tonnes of PVC was recycled in Australia in 2004. PVC products available with recycled content include commercial floor tiles; stormwater pipe and fittings; plumbing DWV pipe; conduit and roadside guideposts. At the end of a PVC product’s useful life, if it is not feasible to recycle it, it can be safely incinerated or deposited in landfill.
PVC is non-toxic and inert and can be disposed of safely in landfill. There is no evidence that PVC contributes to the toxicity of leachate in landfill. The Swedish EPA found that disposal of PVC in landfills is not an environmental problem in any landfill designed to accept general wastes.
Vinyl chloride formation can occur in landfills as a degradation product of chlorinated hydrocarbons. Studies report that because PVC shows no sign of degradation in landfill, any vinyl chloride gas does not originate from the PVC. Nevertheless, sending PVC or other waste to landfill cannot be considered a complete solution, in view of the increasing scarcity of suitable sites; it will often be better to recycle or incinerate it.
PVC additives – Deceuninck profiles no longer contain lead, and the use of cadmium stabilisers has ceased.
In the 1970s, the industry and scientists discovered a link between prolonged, high-level exposure to Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM) among production works and a rare form of liver cancer called angiosarcoma. Radical changes to technology and processes were then rapidly introduced to protect the health of workers. Today, the PVC production process is closed, with activities involving VCM taking place in sealed vessesls. This minimises potential worker exposure, reduces environmental emissions and maximises production efficiencies.
No case of angiosarcoma has been identified in any VCM/PVC production worker employed after the introduction of the revised processing technology in the mid to late 1970s.
Referenced from Vinyl Council of Australia’s website – www.vinyl.org.au – June 08