How do Western countries deal with PVC waste?

The world is facing a waste crisis due to PVC. Short-term PVC production, years of processing, has caused a lot of PVC waste problems, especially when burning.

The average life cycle of durable products - which constitutes more than half of the PVC consumption - is about 34 years. This durable vinyl plastic began to be produced and sold in the 1960s - when the plastic boom began - and is now entering a period of waste. The hills where PVC waste is now seen are just the first phase of the crisis.

Worldwide, there are more than 150 million tons of long-life PVC products, most of which are used in the building's part, which will form a PVC waste hill in the next decade. According to the products being added, this hill will double in 2005, and the world will enter the PVC waste period and have to deal with about 300 million tons of PVC waste. In industrialized countries, the increase in large amounts of PVC waste has exceeded the production of PVC. The most interesting fact is that the PVC industry is booming in Latin America and Asia, so that the final waste mountain will be produced in these parts of the world. A large number of PVC products will become waste in the future, and the growing PVC production projects indicate that the phase-out of PVC is also urgently needed. This is the only way to stop a growing, dangerous and unmanageable waste problem.

So what are we going to do with these wastes? Where is the solution? Because PVC, like most plastics, does not biodegrade quickly, there are three main options: burial, incineration, or recycling.

Today, 2.6-2.9 million tons of PVC waste has been landfilled, but only 100,000 tons of waste has been recycled, and only 600,000 tons of waste has been incinerated. The European Commission will take steps to make the landfill law less attractive (because it cannot ultimately solve environmental hazards), and the same, the incineration method does not count the final solution of the problem. Recycling in this area may be the most effective solution, but in the current EU countries, recycling is still at a low level, with recycling recovering below 3% of the total.

There are two types of recycling methods for polyvinyl chloride: mechanical recovery and feed recovery. The mechanical recycling process refers to the direct recovery of plastic, converting the discarded material into plastic pellets. These recycled pellets are then put into the plastics production process to form new products. Feedstock recovery is especially useful for waste materials that are not suitable for mechanical recycling. Polyvinyl chloride is decomposed at high temperatures and its chemical composition is reduced. In the recovery of polyvinyl chloride-rich feedstocks, hydrochloric acid (HCI) is the main chemical for recovery and is then reused as a raw material in the production of polyvinyl chloride.

In fact, less than 1% of PVC is currently recyclable in nature. This PVC waste product cannot be recycled to its original quality, because PVC requires pure PVC to get the same quality. This product is mainly a "downward cycle" or used to make "inferior" products such as park benches and highway fences.

Many recycled PVC products have re-added toxic heavy metal compounds or other stabilizers, and more are dangerous compounds in the added second product.

So is recycling not the ultimate solution? Of course not, but there are some interesting developments that are conducive to producing good solutions. When we recycle plastic products (not only polyvinyl chloride), we will definitely find the best solution, not only from an economic point of view, but also from the perspective of environment and energy utilization. If the use of energy-recycling plastics has a greater impact on the environment than on the production of new plastic items, there is little point in using large amounts of energy to recover a limited amount of plastic products. Better measures can be taken before we recycle, such as reusing energy used to make plastic. We can recycle plastic, but don't have to go through a down cycle. This requires complex production methods to truly restore the original product and reuse it as an equivalent item.

A factory specializing in the recycling of polyvinyl chloride plastics has been built in Ferrara, Italy. The recycled PVC is consistent in quality with the original product. Therefore, the economic value of these recycled products proves that there are good reasons for the operation of the plant. The plant also put forward a new point of view, when the annual recycling of 8,500 tons or 9,000 tons of PVC can reduce our sensitivity to changes in raw material costs. Similarly, this technology can also produce PVC with exceptional quality, opening the door to new and original applications. At the same time, the Belway Group of Belgium has also invented a new method for treating PVC waste materials, namely the "ethylene cycle" technology. This technology can not only process composite PVC waste materials, but also produce high-value recycled PVC. The "ethylene cycle" technology takes advantage of the properties of PVC (selective solubility) to separate PVC materials from other materials to produce recycled materials that are comparable to new PVC. Recently, the group has cooperated with the Italian company Ferrara to build the first "ethylene cycle" device. The 12 million euro device has an annual capacity of 15,000 tons for disposing of used cables and 10,000 tons of recycled PVC.

If people want to make choices between cheap, superior performance, environmental protection and health, I think we will not hesitate to choose the latter, although we have not found a reasonable and effective solution to polyvinyl chloride today. The method of plastic poisoning, but the scientists will eventually give a reply to humans, either to terminate the production and use of polyvinyl chloride plastics, or to use alternative raw materials, to improve the preparation method... In short, humans need a healthy living environment. The days of thoroughly solving the contradictory problems of polyvinyl chloride plastics should not be far away.

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