We all know that recycling is important. It reduces our reliance on landfills, helps to conserve resources, and cuts down on pollution. But what about PVC or polyvinyl chloride derived plastics? Can you recycle PVC pipes or packaging materials? You’ve probably seen the recycling symbol on plastic products and assumed that all plastics can be recycled. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, some plastics, like PVC, can’t be recycled at all. So, what is PVC and why can’t it be recycled? Keep reading to find out.
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a type of plastic that’s used in a variety of products, from pipes to toys to food packaging. PVC is strong and durable, which makes it ideal for many applications. However, those same qualities make PVC difficult to recycle.
The Plastics Recycling Process
Recycling starts with sorting. Materials are sorted by type and then by grade. Plastics are usually sorted by type first (PET, HDPE, PVC, etc.) and then by grade (1, 2, 3, etc.). Once materials are sorted, they’re cleaned and shredded into small pieces.
The next step in the process is called “extrusion.” During extrusion, the small pieces of plastic are melted and formed into pellets. These pellets are then sold to manufacturers who use them to create new products.
The Problem with PVC that Prevents Recycling
PVC can’t be easily recycled because it can’t be extruded. When PVC is heated, it releases harmful chemicals into the air. For this reason, most recycling facilities won’t accept PVC products.
In addition to being difficult to recycle, PVC is also one of the most environmentally-harmful plastics. PVC production releases dioxins—a type of pollution that has been linked to cancer—into the environment. Dioxins aren’t just released during production; they can also leach out of PVC products over time.
So what can you do if you have PVC products? The best thing to do is avoid buying them in the first place. If you must buy them, try to find products made from recycled PVC or alternatives to PVC altogether.
Are There Any Recycling Options Out There for PVC?
One option is to look for a “Terracycle” drop-off location. Terracycle is a company that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle materials. They have locations all over the United States where you can drop off your PVC (and other hard-to-recycle items) for recycling.
Another option is to contact your local waste management company to see if they have any suggestions for recycling PVC. Some companies have special programs for hard-to-recycle materials, so it’s always worth asking!
Avoid Buying PVC Products When Possible
PVC might be strong and durable, but those qualities make it difficult to recycle. In fact, most recycling facilities won’t accept PVC products because they can’t be melted down without releasing harmful chemicals into the air. What’s more, PVC production releases dioxins—a type of pollution that has been linked to cancer—into the environment. So next time you’re at the store looking for plastic products, try to find alternatives to PVC altogether or look for products made from recycled PVC instead.