Environmental benefits of PVC are touted on what appears to be an industry funded website but there is also some serious criticism of PVC claiming that the manufacture produces dioxin and that additives contained in the material leach out during use, with toxic effects.

Do current PVC production methods tend to have issues with toxic pollution? Is there any balanced research on this that is not likely to be one-sided? (in comparison to industry or, say, Greenpeace funded research)

During use, is there evidence PVC is toxic (to people, or perhaps aquatic life) when used in typical ways?

When disposing of PVC (ie after it can no longer be recycled), is there a safe way to destroy it, such as through incineration? Note I'm aware that currently it likely mostly ends up as landfill, but there may be room for improvement if it can be safely destroyed.

I'm aware this is a somewhat broad question, so a broad answer is appropriate.

1 Answer 1


The German Wikipedia page on PVC contains some of the information you seek. I'll paraphrase:

  • Soft-PVC emits hazardous substances (BPA). I recall but don't know from where that PVC is no longer allowed in Germany for drinking water.
  • Most PVC is used in buildings (pipes, window-parts...) and separated gathering is easier than with other plastics.
  • PVC can be melted and reused, but this will severly degrade the quality unless you collect material of very homogenous quality (PVC is a group of similiar materials). In Germany, there's a system to collect old PVC pipes, my understanding is that there's also an industry standard on material that allows recycling (but I'm not quite sure)
  • There's a push to use low-grade PVC specifically to have a use for recycled, or rather downcycled PVC, the keyword is VinylPlus
  • There's a pyrolytic process that turns PVC into a sort of tar, syngas or other (potentially) useful polymers. This also requires a clean collection, as above
  • Landfill: Hard PVC does not degrade as far as is known so far. It is assumed that soft PVC leak hazardous substances
  • Incineration creates dioxines. A state of the art waste incineration plant is equipped to destroy dioxines (by a sort of afterburner) in the flue gas, at least to a large degree.
  • From my professional experience, PVC is used for piping because PVC pipes can be easily connected by glue, by persons with little training and with little equipment compared to PE. The handling of the glue is also a possible

In summary: Technically, some recycling is possible but depends strongly on industry wide standards and infrastructure, possibly a regulatory pressure on the industry to adopt these.
If you need more info on a specific point, maybe ask a new question.

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