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Recycling PVC

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Flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) uses compounds known as plasticizers, which make the material soft, flexible and a potential health hazard, particularly in the manufacturing process. (It’s the off-gassing plasticizers that result in “new car smell.”) On the other end of the life cycle spectrum, PVC presents recycling challenges. Scott Campbell, president of Rainier Industries Tukwila, Wash., says, “The demand is high but the economics are challenging.”

In Europe, textile manufacturer Ferrari® Group in partnership with the Solvay Group has implemented a PVC recycling program known as Texyloop®. The program features:

27 pick-up points for PVC recycling in Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy, with 17 pickup points in France.

Collection as of May 2009 of 2,024 tonnes of worn-out tarpaulins (a tonne, or metric tonne, equals just more than 1.1 tons).

A recycling process that includes crushing, selective dissolving, fiber separation, PVC precipitation and solvent regeneration; the process turns old PVC composite membranes and fabrics into useable polyester fibers and supple PVC.

Fueling of the “closed-circuit” process by the separated and regenerated solvents, meaning that no extra energy is added to or taken from the process.

Peder Engebretson is a teacher and freelance writer in St. Anthony Village, Minn.

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