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A Frontrunner of the Circular Economy

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For almost 20 years, VinylPlus®, the voluntary commitment to sustainable development of the European PVC industry, has been a pioneer of the Circular Economy. The programme was developed bottom-up in industry workshops and through open dialogue with all stakeholders, including NGOs, regulators, civil society representatives and users of PVC. It seeks to establish a long-term framework for the sustainable development of the PVC industry throughout the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland, and continuously works on promoting dialogue and awareness of the importance of sustainability within the industry and among other stakeholders.

Having strived to be credible and forward-thinking since its beginnings, VinylPlus is today a living example of an effective industry initiative. Not only does VinylPlus uniquely bring together the entire value chain - PVC manufacturers, additives producers, converters and recyclers – but the programme’s results speak for themselves. Through VinylPlus, the European PVC industry has so far recycled approximately 4.2 million tonnes of PVC, going from negligible recycling in 2000 to around 640,000 tonnes of PVC recycled in 2017. This has reduced the amount of waste going to landfill, saved resources, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and created jobs. Currently, VinylPlus is on track for its next target: to recycle 800,000 tonnes of PVC per year by 2020. Additionally, following the EU Commission’s pledging call in its Plastic Strategy for the entire plastics industry to boost plastics recycling, VinylPlus has recently committed to recycling at least 900,000 tons of PVC per year into new products, by 2025. Looking further ahead, VinylPlus has also committed to recycling a minimum of 1 million tonnes per year by 2030.

To achieve these targets, VinylPlus commits to transparency and accountability by publicly sharing results and submitting them for evaluation by an independent Monitoring Committee, that includes representatives from the EU Commission, Parliament, consumer groups, trade unions, academia and industry. In its mission to take on the challenges of PVC recycling, VinylPlus abides by working principles such as responsibility, dialogue, continuous improvement and collaboration.

Indeed, VinylPlus’ work centres around five key sustainability challenges – or objectives - that cover the life cycle of PVC products, identified on the basis of The Natural Step (TNS) System Conditions for a Sustainable Society. These objectives are: environmentally-responsible production, controlled loop recycling, the sustainable use of additives, the sustainable use of energy and raw materials, and sustainability awareness throughout the value chain, both in Europe and globally. More than ever, these objectives are vital to the future of our planet, and as the EU’s Circular Economy Package and Plastics Strategy will soon come into effect, a sustainable use of PVC is ever-important.

PVC is one of the most widely-used plastics in the world, and is found in an impressive array of mostly long-life applications that support our modern quality of life, such as window frames, pipes, flooring, cables, roofing and waterproofing membranes, packaging, sport equipment, furniture and medical devices. What’s more, at the end of its life, PVC can be recycled several times thanks to its polymer structure which withstands recycling whilst keeping its key physical properties. And, as VinylPlus works to increase recycling solutions for PVC, PVC use is indeed becoming increasingly sustainable. VinylPlus also considers the quality and safety of recycled materials of paramount importance, and therefore encourages the development and use of traceability schemes. Finally, recycling PVC also allows for an effective use of raw materials and for the preservation of natural resources, thus playing a key role in ensuring a real circular economy.

Today, as resource-efficient models are increasingly acknowledged as key for making the circular economy a reality, VinylPlus has gained recognition. VinylPlus was included in the Rio+20 Registry of Commitments in 2012, and is also registered as a ‘SMART’ partnership on the UN Partnerships for SDGs platform, as VinylPlus’ work contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Additionally, VinylPlus has been a member of the Green Industry Platform since 2013, a global partnership led by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN Environment Platform Programme (UNEP). Nilgün Tas, Chief of the Industrial Resource Efficiency Division in the Department of Environment at UNIDO, recently spoke of her support for VinylPlus: “[we] commend initiatives such as VinylPlus for its leadership in the areas of recycling and addressing sector challenges, in particular by working with partners along the value chain.”

Certainly, VinylPlus will continue to work towards recycling targets and to advocate for policies that encourage further development in the recycling sector. At the same time, VinylPlus promotes alternative projects that raise awareness of PVC use and reuse, and that illustrate the material’s vast possibilities. VinylPlus therefore invites you to discover ECVM’s 34th edition of WonderfulVinyl, and the many, wonderful forms PVC can take.

Visit https://vinylplus.eu/ to find out more.