Vinyl Council member, Plustec Pty Ltd, based in NSW, has become the first uPVC profile supplier to achieve accreditation under the country’s Industry Code of Practice (ICP) for vinyl profiles used in windows and doors in Australia. The company is also one of only two companies that extrude uPVC window profiles locally.
Developed by the Vinyl Council of Australia, the uPVC Window Alliance’s initiative is designed to provide greater confidence to specifiers, builders and consumers in the durability of uPVC profiles under Australian climatic conditions and to reduce concern that uPVC profiles may discolour under high UV conditions.
The ICP sets specific composition, weathering resistance, colour and strength requirements for extruded uPVC profiles for use in windows and doors in Australian buildings. Assessments of profile performance to the ICP requirements are made by third party accredited testing laboratories and require physical exposure of the profiles to one of the highest UV radiation exposure standards for these products in the world. This means that purchasers of Australian-made u-PVC window and doors holding this new accreditation can be confident that the products have been tested to withstand Australia’s higher UV conditions.
Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia comments: “Through our uPVC Window Alliance initiative, all local uPVC profile suppliers supplying products in Australia who achieve this trade mark have demonstrated that their products can reliably meet the highest standards required, both to meet our more extreme climatic conditions and those expected by prospective purchasers.
“Consumers in Australia buying uPVC windows expect, quite rightly, that these can cope with a harsher climate. That’s why we have introduced the new testing requirements and trade mark with stringent compliance requirements to provide customers with greater confidence in the durability of uPVC products in Australian climatic conditions.
“We not only encourage people to choose uPVC windows for quality high performance windows, we encourage them to ask for this mark.”
Tracy Wakefield, Managing Director of Plustec comments: “As a small company, we are extremely proud of this ‘trailblazing’ achievement that has taken considerable time to go through the rigorous testing regimes. It is exciting that the first accreditation is for an Australian-made product.
“We designed our profile specifically for the Australian market and the ICP accreditation endorses our efforts to make a profile specifically suited to Australia’s needs. It makes our effort worthwhile!”
The use of uPVC (unplasticised PVC, or vinyl-framed) double-glazed windows has been growing in Australia as they not only perform well in keeping cold out of a building and heat within; they also work to keep summer heat out and the cool air inside.
Well-established in Europe, the UK and US, where they are the dominant window type used, a key benefit of uPVC high performance windows is their ability to balance optimisation of heating and cooling loads with consumers’ desire for greater natural light.
The excellent thermal insulation of the uPVC frames combined with insulated glass units and airtight sealing mean less energy is needed to maintain an ambient temperature within the home, which is reflected in cost savings, lower energy bills and improved levels of comfort. This makes them an ideal energy-efficient and cost-effective solution for Australian homes where homeowners like large areas of glazing and plenty of natural light.
Given that Australia has the highest solar radiation per square metre of land of any continent, it is important that products used in Australian buildings are formulated and designed for the climate. The ICP for uPVC window and door profiles is much higher than even the ‘Severe’ climate test for warmer parts of southern Europe, the US or China.
Suppliers seeking ICP accreditation must have their profiles independently tested near Townsville, Queensland, Australia’s only natural outdoor weather resistance testing laboratory. The ICP also covers polymer quality and restrictions on legacy additives, while allowing recycled PVC to permitted levels.
Sophi adds: “Congratulations to Plustec on being our first fully accredited supplier of uPVC profiles for the Australia market. We look forward to welcoming other profile suppliers seeking to achieve the mark and, in turn, offering weathering resistance confidence to their customers here.”
The PVC industry in Australia is crucial to the delivery of several essential services in the Australian economy.
Approximately three quarters of the local PVC industry is engaged in the manufacture and distribution of products for essential utility services including potable water, stormwater management and sewer services, energy and telecommunications delivery, plastics recycling and key construction products for major projects such as healthcare facilities.
Others in the sector produce essential processing chemicals and compounds, specialist food packaging and vital medical products, manufactured here in Australia.
The local industry directly employs over 2,500 people and contributes well over $3 billion to the national economy. PVC products contribute to virtually every sector of the economy and it is vital that the industry remains operational through this Covid19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the safety and well-being of the industry's employees and customers is paramount. Members of the Vinyl Council of Australia are implementing appropriate measures to protect their workers, contractors and customers from risk of exposure at their work places, and will continue to ensure the safety of their operations.
Versatile and recyclable, PVC (vinyl) provides significant benefits as a specialist packaging material; yet recovering this material for sustainable reuse presents challenges. Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia offers some practical solutions.
For more than half a century, PVC or vinyl has been used on a global basis to meet specific functional food and beverage packaging needs. It suits many different food types, offering excellent clarity, unsurpassed physical properties, including heat tolerance, controllable gas and moisture vapour transmission capabilities and exceptional sealing performance.
Most vinyl is used in long life products, particularly building products from pipes, cabling and flooring to window frames and wall profiles, all of which are recyclable. Vinyl used in packaging – such as bottles, thermoformed punnets, pharma blister packs and cling films - represents about 6% of the material’s usage in Australia.
In these applications, vinyl plays an important role in protecting food from contamination and keeping it fresher for longer, while helping to reduce unnecessary food waste. It also protects a variety of high value consumer products, from pharmaceuticals to toys, razors and batteries. In healthcare, vinyl is used in many critical medical items, such as intravenous fluid bags and oxygen hoses. Although a small volume polymer packaging material, it has specific, necessary uses with a relatively low environmental footprint compared to alternatives.
Without doubt, vinyl has revolutionised the way we live our modern lives, helping to deliver safer healthcare, protecting our food and delivering drinking water. Given the high profile of plastics in the media, attention must focus on how we treat this recyclable material at end of life and recover it for beneficial reuse, including energy.
Post-consumer rigid PVC packaging is collected by most local councils around Australia. With existing infra-red sorting technologies, it can be sorted into a defined stream, reprocessed and used as recyclate for use in new products manufactured in Australia. However, at just over 5% of all plastic packaging materials (industrial and consumer) used in Australia, vinyl packaging is only a small proportion of total household packaging waste and is often considered uneconomically viable to sort and recycle.
The 2017-18 recycling rate of PVC packaging waste in Australia is reported to be 7.2% - which is low when compared to the overall average rate of 20.6% for all plastic packaging. (Source - 2017-18 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey published by Envisage Works, 30 January 2019). Nevertheless, clean, separated vinyl waste has value and collection has been actively encouraged by industry.
Clean, separated vinyl waste is relatively easy to recycle, requiring less energy for reprocessing than all other polymers. Using recycled vinyl in new products replaces virgin material and reduces carbon emissions associated with manufacturing virgin vinyl by about 80 to 85%, significantly lowering the carbon footprint of new vinyl products.
While technology exists to identify and sort PVC, few Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are currently operating these systems because of ‘low volumes’. Yet substitution of a small handful of PVC packaging items would almost certainly lead to higher environmental impacts and higher waste volumes in terms of food waste, product damage or alternative non-recyclable composite packaging materials. It will also not remove PVC entirely from the waste stream, so an effective solution to remove PVC ‘contamination’ would be required regardless.
In my view, we need to consider whether the system of use is ‘open’ or ‘closed’ and how these waste plastics can be collected and recovered effectively in both systems for processing into new products, giving it a value as a raw material.
Examples of a ‘closed’ approach might be a major event, an airline or a hospital, where all the plastic waste can feasibly be collected, sorted, segregated and ultimately recycled as single, clean polymer waste streams. An excellent example of PVC packaging being collected and recycled is that of IV bags in healthcare. Schemes in Australia (our PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program), South Africa, Thailand and the UK successfully demonstrate that this material can be separated at waste source, collected and recycled into useful new products.
Conversely, in an ‘open’ system, such as take-away restaurants, all ‘control’ of these waste plastics is lost once single-use plastic walks out the door.
As a material that meets so many of our modern-day needs effectively, we should give careful consideration to how we treat and reuse PVC at end-of-life.
Solution options should cover:
Demand is growing from manufacturers to increase the use of vinyl recyclate and signatory companies of our long-established PVC Stewardship Program are publicly committed to using recyclate in new products where standards permit.
Through greater collaboration between industry, manufacturers and the wider waste and recycling sector, the vinyl industry can be part of the solution and transform our plastic waste into a sustainable future resource.
A record 20 Signatory companies have achieved Excellence status under the Australian PVC Stewardship Program by demonstrating full compliance with key environmental objectives applicable to their businesses.
Launched in 2002, the Vinyl Council of Australia’s voluntary program commits participants to strive for continuous improvement in environmental and health outcomes by meeting a series of challenging targets and standards related to the life cycle of PVC products.
Progress reported by 45 Signatories towards greater sustainability throughout 2018 is summarised in the latest PVC Stewardship Program annual report. Of these, Baerlocher (M) SND BHD and Brenntag Australia have made the most outstanding improvement.
To achieve Excellence status, Signatories must comply with a set of stringent criteria that also requires them to question their suppliers’ as well as their own performance. This covers safe and sustainable use of additives; reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficiency, best practice manufacturing, and transparency and engagement.
Acknowledging the successful efforts of the 2018 Excellence in PVC Stewardship award winners, Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia said: “We’re delighted that a record number of Signatories have achieved Excellence; it’s the most since we implemented the program and in an environment where we are continually raising the bar for Excellence.
“It is also great to see year on year growth in the number of organisations joining the program, which is an indicator of its value to the industry and its position in the marketplace.”
Sophi highlighted how the success of the Vinyl Council’s program can be measured by an increased number of Signatories (84% in 2018, compared to 68% in 2017) who have embedded its environmental commitments into their respective business management systems.
“This speaks to a cultural change in the sector whereby product stewardship sits at the heart of good business practice,” she added.
Recycling figures continue their upward trend under the program’s goal to drive greater recovery of end-of-life PVC and uptake of recycled PVC content. In 2018, 719,336 kilograms of locally sourced PVC recyclate was used by Signatories in new goods, up from 633,392 kilograms in 2017 and 365,609 in 2016.
The Council’s PVC Circularity Taskforce is further strengthening the industry’s push for enhanced sustainability. Made up of industry and government representatives, the Taskforce provides leadership and guidance on enhancing recycling and recovery of PVC in Australia along circular economy principles.
Initiatives pursued by the Vinyl Council that support its overall vision include the VersrTile project, funded by industry and a $20,000 grant via the Melbourne Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group. The project identified a potential reuse for waste billboard skins in durable prototype roof tiles, without the need to separate the polyester fibre from the vinyl.
In the healthcare sector, the successful PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program continues to grow with more than 175 hospitals collecting up to 15 tonnes of medical grade PVC waste per month for recycling into new products, such as garden hose and outdoor playground matting.
Registration is now open for the much anticipated PVC AUS 2021: Shared Horizons to take place at Surfers Paradise Queensland, 9-11 March 2021.
PVC AUS is the only conference that brings together Australasia’s vinyl value chain to meet, educate and innovate. Building on the success of PVC AUS 2016 and 2018, PVC AUS 2021: Shared Horizons will have content-rich, technical and commercial presentation streams as well as plenary sessions and plenty of networking and conversation time.
With experts in PVC manufacturing, product development and markets supported by world-renowned companies as sponsors and exhibitors, this event will explore future trends and opportunities for the industry in the region.
Opening with what promises to be a sociable night at Topgolf Gold Coast and with a spectacular conference dinner and entertainment at Skypoint at the end of Day One, PVC AUS 2021 provides plenty of opportunity to reach, network with and influence key decision-makers within the industry.
Lock in the dates now and REGISTER HERE!
Special offer for Vinyl Council Members: the first 50 to register will save $200.00 per ticket. Learn more.
Global vinyl industry partnerships are driving progress in the sustainability of the Australian PVC industry, resulting in the creation of successful initiatives such as best practice manufacturing, product stewardship and recycling.
Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia and a member of the Global Vinyl Council, believes that partnership is ‘absolutely integral to the work that we do as an association focused on sustainable development of the industry’.
During a panel discussion at the recent VinylPlus Sustainability Forum 2019 held in Prague, Czech Republic, Sophi emphasised the importance of partnerships for sharing knowledge, experience and strategies with experts from all the regions of the vinyl world.
“Attending the Global Vinyl Council meeting and the European Vinyl Sustainability Forum provides a great opportunity to build connections across the industry beyond Australia and our region. For the Australian vinyl industry, which is a small market, partnerships have been essential to us to move forward, to be able to tap into the knowledge of people, particularly in Europe and the US.
“It’s these connections that help us to develop our voluntary, industry PVC Stewardship Program and our initiatives around recycling, as well as sharing ideas and best practice.”
The Vinyl Sustainability Forum, organised by VinylPlus, the voluntary sustainable development commitment of the European PVC industry, attracted more than 170 participants from 32 countries to share further progress towards advancing the sustainability of the industry and its products.
Sophi continued: “Europe’s VinylPlus program is a leader in striving towards sustainable goals across the whole vinyl industry supply chain. Here at the Vinyl Council of Australia we follow in their footsteps with our own PVC Stewardship Program that has driven continual improvement in the vinyl industry for 17 years. We see stewardship as being a shared responsibility, so it is about working with, not just industry members, but also stakeholders - particularly government and NGOs - and trying to establish constructive partnerships.
“It’s about being aware of different epistemologies – different ways of knowing – which can help us to remove blinkers, to understand and characterise issues and develop paths to address them.”
Nowhere is this more important than in addressing the need for the industry to engage in the circular economy. Sophi highlighted their successful PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program, which now has 175 hospitals across Australia and New Zealand participating in the collection of PVC medical products for recycling back into new products, and through collaboration, is being implemented in other countries such as South Africa, the UK and Thailand.
In Australia, partnering with medical devices manufacturer Baxter Healthcare, PVC recyclers, medical waste collection companies, state governments and health authorities has been essential to developing and successfully delivering the program.
Sophi added: “Collaboration with the nurses and midwives’ union has also been very helpful in terms of finding pathways to engage nursing staff and to develop training on which medical products are recyclable under the program.”
A further example was given of the Council’s partnerships with academia such as Monash University and manufacturers in the development of product concepts for vinyl recyclate.
The Vinyl Council would like to see such wider collaboration form between stakeholders, particularly end-user brands, in the broader plastics packaging space.
“By working together, we have more knowledge, more ideas and are better equipped to find solutions to seemingly intractable problems.”