The Association of Plastics Recyclers
  • PVC

    PVC

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, Resin Identification Code #3)

Due to its price, clarity, chemical and UV resistance, natural barrier properties and low melting temperature, PVC is a good material for many applications. However, the low melting temperature and chemical composition of PVC makes it extremely incompatible with most other common polymers. When even minute amounts of PVC are processed with other polymers, the PVC degrades into hydrochloric acid and chlorine, rendering large amounts of the polymer useless. PVC sinks in water and is therefore difficult to remove in conventional PET recycling systems. Currently, the number of PVC bottles in the post-consumer collected stream of plastic bottles is at such low levels that the bottles are not recycled and considered a contaminant. Because of this, APR finds the use of PVC bottles undesirable if those bottles are included with bales of PET or HDPE bottles.

At this time, PVC collection systems are limited in North America so this material does not currently meet the collection accessibility criteria established in “APR’s definition of recyclable” or by the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides. Anticipating the development and growth of future PVC recycling programs, however, the APR recommends the following guidelines.

  • PREFERRED

    Recycled PVC (rPVC) Content

    The use of postconsumer PVC in all packages and items is encouraged to the maximum amount technically and economically feasible.

  • PREFERRED

    Clear unpigmented polymer

    Clear material has the highest value as a recycled stream since it has the widest variety of end-use applications. It is the most cost effective to process through the recycling system.

    DETRIMENTAL

    See "Requires Test Results" section

    REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

    Black and dark colors with L-Value less than 40 or NIR reflectance less than or equal to 10%

    Sortation testing for dark colors will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Dark colors cannot be Preferred at this time.

    NIR (near-infrared) sorting technology used in MRFs and reclaimers is not capable of identifying many dark polymers since the colorant absorbs light and manual sorting cannot distinguish one dark polymer from another. Other separation techniques such as float-sink cannot be employed since many polymers sink with PVC. Therefore, dark packaging is considered a contaminant for nearly all reclaimers. Some dark shades may be detected by NIR but these must be tested to determine their sortability. 

    BENCHMARK TEST

  • PREFERRED

    Items whose dimensions are clearly more 3-dimensional than 2-dimensional (CASS > 20)

    Early in the MRF sorting process, 3-dimensional items (containers) are separated from 2-dimensional items (paper). It is important that they sort properly and do not cross-contaminate.

    Items that clearly measure larger than 5 centimeters (two inches) in two dimensions

    Small size boundaries are of concern because the industry standard screen size for Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in North America potentially loses materials less than two inches to the residue waste stream. Testing can determine the impact of the size and shape of a container on sortability.

    DETRIMENTAL

    Items greater than 7.5 liters (two gallons) in volume

    Recycling machinery, particularly automatic sorting equipment, is not large enough to accept items larger than 7.5 liters. Because larger containers jam the systems, most MRFs employ manual sortation before the automatic line to remove the large items. These items are recovered in a stream of bulky rigid containers that are sold and processed as polyethylene, since the vast majority of bulky rigid items are composed of this polymer. Other polymers including PVC either negatively affect or are lost by the polyethylene processing.

    REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

    Items more 2-dimensional than 3-dimensional (CASS > 11 but < 20)

    Aside from not being captured in the PVC stream, non-conforming items that are more "flat" can cause contamination in the paper stream. If items are not captured and directed into the PVC stream, they are not recycled. Items should have a minimum depth of two inches for proper sortation.

    *Under Development - Definitive Test: Evaluation of 2D/3D Sorting Potential for Articles (SORT-B-0X) 

    Items smaller than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in 2 dimensions

    The industry standard screen size for North American MRFs potentially loses materials less than 5 cm to the residue waste stream. Testing can determine the impact of the size and shape of a container on sortability.

    BENCHMARK TEST

  • PREFERRED

    Closures without liners, made from polymers with density <1.0 that float in water; specifically PE and PP
    Closures plus liners made from polymers with density < 1.0 that float in water (specifically PE & PP closures; PE foam, EVA, TPE liners)
    Shrink film safety sleeves of polymers with density < 1.0 that float in water

    Floating polymers are most easily separated from PVC in conventional separation systems. Additionally, the PVC process may capture floatable polyethylene and polypropylene to create an ancillary stream of marketable material. Care must be taken when modifying the polyethylene or polypropylene to ensure the modifier does not increase the overall density to the point it sinks. Note that these sinking polymers are not removed in the combined recycling process but instead become a contaminate. Minimizing closure size is advantageous to both processes.

    Shrink film safety sleeves that are designed to be completely removed before the package can be opened

    Regardless of material, designs that require complete removal by the consumer of the safety sleeve are Preferred, as the material will not be introduced into the recycling stream.

    DETRIMENTAL

    Closure liners that are composites of aluminum and paper

    These materials will contaminate wash water, will contribute to waste disposal costs, or will stick to the saleable closure material or valuable PVC and reduce quality and value of the final products.

    Closures and shrink film safety sleeves made of polymers with density >1.0 that sink in water

    (specifically PS, silicone, nylon, acetal, thermosets) These materials are heavier than water and sink in the float-sink tank with PVC. They are extremely difficult to separate from the recycled polymer flake, requiring a costly and inexact polymer flake sorter currently not installed in many reclaiming operations.

    Also see "Requires Test Results" Section

    RENDERS NON-RECYCLABLE

    PET

    The use of PET closures, safety sleeves or closure liners renders the package non-recyclable per APR. PET sinks and is extremely hard for the recycler to remove, particularly in small pieces. The recycled PVC stream is very intolerant of even minute amounts of PET.

    REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

    Closures or lidding with metal components

    Sortation testing for metal components will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Metal components cannot be Preferred at this time.

    Metal contamination is highly undesirable in recycled PVC. Metals create wear in process machinery, increase operation costs and yield loss, and are a primary source of defects in products made with recycled PVC. MRFs and PVC reclaimers use magnets and metal detectors to keep packages with metal components out of the process stream. Metal components such as closures or lidding that trigger metal detectors will cause the entire plastic item to be removed from the stream and not recycled. At best, sortation testing will classify such an item as Detrimental to Recycling.

    BENCHMARK TEST

    Shrink film safety sleeves that are NOT designed to be completely removed before the package can be opened

    If a shrink film safety sleeve is designed such that pieces of it may not detach from the package when opened, the material must be tested to determine its compatibility with PVC recycling. Specifically, such materials should either float and be separated from the PVC, or if they sink, they must be compatible with PVC. Companies that are considering such sleeves and are unsure of their compatibility with recycling should ask their suppliers to provide APR test results.

    No test methods currently exist for PVC. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PVC for PET.

    SCREENING TEST

    Closure valves containing silicone (density and floatability will vary)

    Check valves in spray dispensers or pumps may be made of silicone as an alternative to metals. While polymers are generally preferable to metals, the composition of a silicone part may cause it to be incompatible with PVC recycling. It should float in the sink/float system. Companies that are considering such components and are unsure of their compatibility with recycling should ask their suppliers to provide APR test results.

    No test methods currently exist for PVC. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PVC for PET.

    SCREENING TEST

    Closures, dispenser valves, or springs made of metal

    Sortation testing for metal components will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Metal components cannot be Preferred at this time. Metal is difficult to separate from PVC compared to the preferred closure systems (polypropylene and polyethylene) and adds both capital and operating costs to conventional reclamation processes. Even a small amount of metal left in the recycled polymer stream will block extruder screens in remanufacturing. Large metal items attached to PVC packages may cause the package to be directed to the metal or waste stream in the recycling process, causing yield loss. Small metal components such as spray dispenser springs unravel in the recycling process and blind screens, adding significant cost for removal at the end of the process.

    BENCHMARK TEST

  • Barrier layers, coatings, and other additives may be added to PVC bottles and containers to enhance the properties of PVC. Unlike closures or labels, these additions cannot be visually determined to be problematic or potentially problematic for recycling. Therefore, testing is particularly important. APR promotes innovation in the development and testing of new barrier technologies that can be demonstrated by testing to be compatible with recycling. 

    PREFERRED

    None specified

    DETRIMENTAL

    Optical brighteners

    Like many other additives, optical brighteners are not removed in the recycling process and can create an unacceptable fluorescence for next uses of the recycled polymer containing the brighteners. It is difficult to identify material with this negative effect until extremely late in the recycling process where a great deal of added cost has been imparted into a material of low value due to the additive. 

    Untested barrier materials or additives for product protection

    Barriers and additives that have not been tested under APR test protocols are classified as Detrimental due to a lack of data about their impact on the cost, productivity and quality of the PVC recycling process. Companies must test as explained below. 

    Also see “Requires Test Results” Section

    REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

    Barrier materials, additives or coatings for product protection

    Barriers and additives that have not been tested under APR test protocols are classified as Detrimental due to a lack of data about their impact on the cost, productivity and quality of the PVC recycling process. Companies must test as explained below. 

    Test protocol: TBD

    Other barrier materials, additives or coatings 

    The APR recognizes that other types of additives may be required for the performance of a particular package but are not addressed in this document.   Additives such as de-nesting, anti-static, anti-blocking, anti-fogging, anti-slip, UV barrier, stabilizer and heat receptor agents and lubricants should be tested to determine their compatibility with recycling.  Of particular concern are additives which cause the polymer to discolor or haze after remelting since recycled material with poor haze or discoloration is greatly devalued and has limited markets. This is particularly troublesome since it is difficult to identify material with this effect until extremely late in the recycling process where a great deal of added cost has been imparted into the material. 

    Test protocol: TBD

    Degradable additives (photo, oxo, or bio) 

    Recycled PVC is intended to be used in new products engineered to meet particular quality and durability standards. Additives designed to degrade the polymer diminish the life of the material in the primary use and may shorten the useful life of the product made from the rPVC as well, possibly compromising quality and durability.  These additives must either separate and be removed from the PVC in the recycling process or have no adverse effects on the rPVC in future uses.   When used, their content should be minimized to the greatest extent possible to maximize PVC yield, limit potential contamination, and reduce separation costs. 

    Test protocol: TBD

  • Label selection should be considered carefully to find the solution most compatible with the recycling process that also provides the necessary performance characteristics. At a minimum, labels must be designed so NIR sorting machinery can identify the bottle polymer with the label attached, and labels should use adhesives that release from the bottle. Removing adhesives is a significant component to the cost of recycling so the packages using the lowest quantity of appropriate adhesive are the most compatible.

    PREFERRED

    Polymer labels with a density < 1.0 that float in water, specifically polypropylene or polyethylene

    These materials float in water so they are separated from the PVC in the float-sink tank with the closures. Since they are the same general polymer as most of the closures they do not contaminate or devalue this stream. Care should be taken to ensure that any modifiers to the label material do not increase its density above 0.95. Note that these are not removed in the combined recycling process but, instead become a contaminate. Minimizing label size is advantageous to both processes.

    DETRIMENTAL

    Paper labels

    The PVC reclamation process involves a hot caustic wash that removes glue and other label components to the levels required to render the RPVC usable. Paper, when subjected to these conditions, becomes pulp which is very difficult to filter from the liquid, thereby adding significant load to the filtering and water treatment systems. Individual paper fibers making up pulp are very small and difficult to remove so some travel with the PVC. Paper fibers remaining in the RPVC carbonize when the material is heated and re-melted, causing quality degradation and a burnt smell to the polymer. Non-pulping paper labels that resist the caustic wash process sink in the float-sink tank, thereby causing RPVC contamination. These, although removed when the polymer is melt filtered, carbonize causing the same effect.

    Also see "Requires Test Results" Section

    RENDERS NON-RECYCLABLE

    PET and PETG

    Both materials are extremely difficult to remove in the recycling process due to their similarity in density to PVC which causes them to sink in the float/sink tank along with the PVC. Both cause severe quality degradation in the final recycled PVC stream even in very small amounts.

    REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

    Laminated label substrate

    Labels that break into small, very thin pieces of material are more difficult to manage in the recycling process because they behave erratically in a float-sink tank. Therefore, labels that stay intact are preferred. Carry-over of delaminated labels into the RPVC can result in contamination.

    *Under Development - Definitive Test: New Delamination Test 

    Full bottle sleeve labels

    Full bottle sleeve labels cover a large amount of the bottle surface with a polymer that is not the same as the bottle body. Because of this, a sleeve label designed without considering recycling may cause a false reading on an automatic sorter and consequently direct a PVC bottle to another material stream where it is lost to the process. Furthermore, some sleeve label materials cannot be removed in the recycling process and contaminate the RPVC produced. Sleeve labels that have been found compliant with the APR test protocols should be selected.

    BENCHMARK TEST

    Metal foil, metalized and metallic printed labels

    Sortation testing for metal components will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Metal components cannot be Preferred at this time. Sorting equipment in the recycling process is designed to detect and eliminate metal from PVC. Even very thin metallized labels may be identified as metal by the sorting equipment and cause the entire bottle to be rejected as waste, thereby creating yield loss. If not detected, they pass through the process with the PVC and cause contamination issues in the final product.

    BENCHMARK TEST

    Label structures that sink in water because of the choice of substrate, ink, decoration, coatings, and top layer

    The reclaimers rely on float-sink systems to separate non-PVC materials. Label components that sink with the PVC end up in the RPVC stream as contaminants. No test methods currently exist for PVC. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PVC for PET.

    SCREENING TEST

    Pressure sensitive labels and adhesives

    Pressure sensitive labels generally require complete adhesive coverage which is greater than other typical label methods. This raises the importance of the compatibility of the type of adhesive with the recycling process. Adhesives resistant to washing in the recycling process allow labels to remain on the container and become contaminants in the final product. Adhesives that have been found compliant with the APR test protocols should be selected.

    Screening Test: TBD

    Polystyrene labels

    PS inherently sinks in water due to its density and so it therefore travels with the PVC in the recyclers’ float-sink systems. However, Expanded PS (EPS) may float and in this case, it may be less of a problem to the recycler. 

    No test methods currently exist for PVC. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PVC for PET.

    SCREENING TEST

    Direct printing other than date coding

    Historically, inks used in direct printing tend to bleed or otherwise discolor the polymer during the recycling process or introduce incompatible contaminants. In either case, the value of the recycled polymer is diminished. Some inks used in direct printing do not cause these problems. The specific ink must be tested to determine its effect.

    No test methods currently exist for PVC. However, HDPE Bleeding Label Test (HDPE-S-01) may be adapted substituting PVC for HDPE.

    SCREENING TEST

    Label adhesives

    Adhesives that wash off cleanly from PVC and remain adhered to the label are preferred. Label adhesive that is not removed from PVC, or which re-deposits on the PVC during the wash step is a source of contamination and discoloration when PVC is recycled.

    The recycling process is designed to remove reasonably expected contamination from the surface of the container to a degree necessary to render the polymer economically reusable in further applications. In practice, some adhesives are resistant to this process so are detrimental to recycling. In extreme cases, an adhesive and label cannot be separated from the PVC and may render a package not recyclable.

    Screening Tests: TBD

    Label Inks

    Some label inks bleed color in the reclamation process, discoloring the polymer in contact with them and significantly diminishing its value for recycling. Label inks must be chosen that do not bleed color when tested under this protocol.

    Screening Tests: TBD

  • PREFERRED

    Clear PVC attachments

    Attachments made of the base polymer are recovered and recycled with the base polymer without causing contamination or yield loss, thereby generating the highest value.

    DETRIMENTAL

    Paper attachments

    The PVC reclamation process uses a hot caustic wash to remove glue and other contaminants to the levels required to render the RPVC usable. Paper, when subjected to these conditions, becomes pulp which is very difficult to filter from the liquid, thereby adding significant load to the filtering and water treatment systems. Individual paper fibers making up pulp are very small and difficult to remove so some travel with the final polymer. Paper fibers remaining in the RPVC carbonize when the material is reused causing quality degradation.

    Welded attachments

    A certain amount of a welded attachment cannot be separated from the main polymer in the recycling process. These attachments, even when ground and made of floatable materials, cause contamination and yield loss issues in both cases: when the PVC they are attached to causes the ground section containing both polymers to sink, or when the ground section floats.

    RFID’s (radio frequency identification devices) on packages, labels or closures

    Unless they are compatible with PVC recycling and are demonstrated not to create any disposal issues based on their material content, the use of RFID’s is discouraged as it limits yield, introduces potential contamination, and increases separation costs.

    Also see "Requires Test Results" Section

    RENDERS NON-RECYCLABLE

    PET and PLA attachments

    The use of PET or PLA attachments of any kind on PVC packaging is undesirable and should be scrupulously avoided. This includes thermoforms of PET and PLA that may be visually confused with PVC thermoforms. Very small amounts of PET or PLA can severely contaminate and render large amounts of PVC useless for most recycling applications. In addition, PET and PLA are very difficult to separate from PVC in conventional water-based density separation systems due to similar densities (densities greater than 1.0) that cause both to sink in these systems.

    REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

    Metal, metalized and metal containing attachments

    Sortation testing for metal components will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Metal components cannot be Preferred at this time.

    Examples include metal foils and metalized substrates that sink in water. In the recycling process these items are either identified and removed along with their PVC component in the early stages, thereby causing yield loss, or they pass into the recycling process causing a contamination issue. Since they are heavier than water they sink with the PVC in the float-sink tank.

    If a metalized attachment causes the PVC bottle to fail sortation testing, the bottle is Rendered Non-Recyclable as it is removed from the stream and discarded. If a metalized attachment passes through sortation, it is considered Detrimental as it contaminates PVC.

    BENCHMARK TEST

    Non-PVC attachments such as handles

    These should not be adhesively bonded to the package and should readily separate from the package when ground. They should be made from materials that float in water such as PP or HDPE. If adhesives are used to affix attachments, their selection should consider the adhesive criteria within this document.

    No test methods currently exist for PVC. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PVC for PET.

    SCREENING TEST

Get In Touch

Youtube
Soundcloud
Vimeo
Facebook
Twitter
Linkedin

APR

1776 K Street, NW

Washington, DC 20006

Contact Us

Please let us know your name.
Invalid Input
Please write a subject for your message.
Please let us know your email address.
Please let us know your message.
Please complete the reCAPTCHA

Subscribe

Invalid Input