The Vinyl Council of Australia (VCA) and its project partner, Specialised Textiles Association (STA) have secured Government grant funding of nearly $350,000 to further research into the recycling of waste PVC and polyester composite textile products in Australia.
Their TexBack project is one of only 15 successful grant applications (out of a total 190 submissions) and will receive $349,850 from the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF). The Government’s funding program was launched to promote and stimulate shared action for everyday products with a focus on working to reduce waste generation and increased resource recovery.
‘TexBack’ is an industry-driven initiative which aims to steward polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-polyester (PES) composite textile products and waste which are currently not recovered in Australia.
The Morrison Government’s grant will fund the development of the business case for a national product stewardship scheme for textiles such as grain covers, tarpaulins, advertising banners, tents and marquees, roofing and grounds sheets, truck tarps, marine fabrics, swimming pool liners and upholstery fabrics. The project covers a range of activities, including testing of a new chemical separation technology, that will enable the specialised textiles and vinyl sectors to address the growing concerns of waste ending up in landfill.
The NPSIF has projected 1.5 million tonnes of waste to be diverted from landfill through the initiative and will further boost the economy by creating more than 560 potential jobs.
Developing a uniquely Australian solution will pave the way for the establishment of a new, industry-led product stewardship scheme that recovers a complex local waste stream, reprocesses it within Australia and supports the local manufacture of an innovative recycled content PVC building product being developed here, with export market potential. Local markets for recovered polyester will also be sought.
Welcoming the grant, the Vinyl Council of Australia’s PVC Stewardship Manager, Jan van de Graaff said: “TexBack will build on earlier VCA-led research into potential recycling options of PVC coated fabrics conducted over the past four years.
“This grant now gives VCA and STA a real opportunity to collaborate to engage the textile sector in developing a viable scheme for recovery and reprocessing of this waste stream, particularly as there is a potential end-use for the material that will lead to manufacturing of a completely new durable building product in Australia.”
Ana Drougas, Executive Office for the STA said “We are excited to be working with the VCA in an Australian first project to pilot the introduction of innovative and uniquely Australian world-leading PVC Separation technology. We acknowledge and commend the Commonwealth Government for elevating the status of product stewardship as a means of addressing environmental sustainability, growing jobs and the economy.”
In announcing the grant recipients, Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said: “We have made it clear that industry needs to take action for their waste. We are investing $10.5 million to seed 11 new and expand four existing industry-led initiatives that will make a practical environmental difference and it is great to see industry respond strongly to our call.”
“Our seed funding, along with the reforms in our Recycling Act, empowers industry and product experts to take more responsibility for their products,” said Hon Trevor Evans MP Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Assistant Minister.
“The grants were six-times oversubscribed which clearly shows the appetite in Australia for putting the power of recycling into the hands of businesses and consumers.”
For more information on the funded product stewardship schemes, visit: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/product-stewardship/national-product-stewardship-investment-fund
In the current business climate, the application of product stewardship has much to offer to individual businesses, industry collectives and governments seeking to drive sustainable economic growth.
This has been brought into a sharper focus in recent times due to the global economic downturn triggered by the covid-19 pandemic which has led many businesses and governments to recognize the level of economic dependence they have on offshore suppliers and markets, including for waste materials. This, coupled with the impact of the China National Sword policy, has the potential to stimulate new ways of thinking and smarter approaches to business and economic management and prosperity. One such approach, and one that has considerable merit, is product stewardship.
Product stewardship is defined as “the principle that everyone involved in a product supply chain - including raw material and component suppliers, product and packaging manufacturers, brand owners, recyclers, governments and consumers - share responsibility for minimising environmental impacts over that product’s life cycle” . Product stewardship can therefore make a significant contribution to the circular economy. Stewardship, at its best, takes a life cycle thinking approach to ensure products and materials are designed to avoid adverse impacts on society and the environment and that the resources consumed are retained within the productive economy in a cyclical manner.
The Vinyl Council, through its PVC Stewardship Program, has been at the forefront of this journey in Australia for quite some time. The Program commits Signatories to implement life cycle thinking and consider the whole-of-life impacts of the products that they introduce to the marketplace. This encompasses a wide range of considerations including raw materials and resources, embodied carbon, toxicity, and lifespan. This has resulted in the sector producing products that deliver proven environmental benefits, as a function of their excellent performance, durability, low waste generation and affordability which has been borne out through numerous lifecycle assessments carried out globally and locally.
Furthermore, when stakeholders collaborate, opportunities arise for better resource management, which in turn can stimulate local employment and deliver greater security and access to the inputs needed by local manufacturers. The Vinyl Council is pleased Federal and State Governments have recently announced funding programs which may provide opportunities to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs to develop new systems and infrastructure, or products, which will lead to enhanced recovery and reprocessing of greater volumes of PVC for the domestic market.
The Council firmly believes that a product stewardship focus can translate into tangible financial and reputational benefits for those organisations that embrace and commit to implementing product stewardship approaches. These benefits are evident both in the public realm but also in the disciplines it enforces on organisations in terms of how they manage and monitor their day to day operations.
Furthermore, acting as leaders through product stewardship delivers:
With a significant track record of driving change through the industry since 2002, the PVC Stewardship Program is an example of voluntary stewardship bringing benefit to both industry and community.
If you are an Australian business operating in the vinyls product sector and are interesting in learning more about our PVC Stewardship Program, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 03 9510 1711.
For our latest results, please check out our annual Progress Report.
Matthew Hoyne (L), Chairman and Rob McLorinan (R), Vice Chairman
The Board of the Vinyl Council of Australia has elected a new Chairman following the decision by Ian Rayner (Managing Director, Breathe Fresh Australia Pty Ltd) to retire as Chairman after eight years at the helm.
Taking over the role is Matthew Hoyne, Director and General Manager of vinyl compounder and recycler, Welvic Australia.
Ian has supported the Council with his extensive management and industry experience since his appointment as Chairman in 2012 and as a Director since 2005. He has steered the Council through the major industry restructure in 2016 when the country’s only resin producer ceased manufacturing, as well as through the current, challenging pandemic. The strength of the Council today as the peak association for the vinyl industry is testament to Ian’s leadership. He will remain on the Board as a Director.
Matthew Hoyne’s role as Chairman commenced on 25 August. Matthew has served on the Council Board as a Director since 2009 and has been the Treasurer and Deputy Chairman for the past eight years.
He brings over 26 years of experience in the plastics industry having held several technical and commercial roles with different plastics manufacturers. He has been a part owner and Director of Welvic Australia since 2006.
Matthew has been a member of the Council’s Technical Steering Group for the PVC Stewardship Program and currently chairs the PVC AUS conference organising committee and the PVC Circularity Task Force.
The Council’s Board currently has eight directors, including Matthew. These are:
A new record 23 companies demonstrated full compliance with sustainability objectives applicable to their businesses in 2019 under the Australian PVC Stewardship Program, operated by the Vinyl Council of Australia.
Almost 9 out of 10 reporting signatories achieved at least Silver status (>80 % compliance), meaning the program exceeded it key performance benchmark, which is also a first in the program’s 18-year history. Key goals to improve use of sustainable additives and recycled PVC have also been exceeded.
The PVC industry’s life cycle approach to product stewardship has and continues to reshape the PVC, or vinyl, sector in Australia and the formulation of PVC products.
For the first time, over half the reporting signatory companies achieved Excellence in PVC Stewardship.
“The core purpose of the Vinyl Council of Australia is to enhance the industry’s opportunities for sustainable growth,” said Vinyl Council of Australia Chief Executive, Sophi MacMillan.
“To achieve this, the industry has adopted a strong and long-term focus on environmental sustainability which we deliver through a shared responsibility framework bringing together players across the vinyl supply chain, including importers and local manufacturers, as well as government and other key stakeholders.”
The Council’s PVC Stewardship Program is one of Australia’s longest running product stewardship initiatives. The 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, and 2019 marks another year of continued improvement across a range of outcomes.
Key among the highlights has been the avoidance of the use of lead stabilisers and pigments. These compounds had been used for decades as heat stabilisers for the processing of PVC or colourants. While regarded as safe in the finished product, the manufacture of the compounds and their handling in PVC extrusion posed health risks to workers.
This objective to phase them out was a key driver in establishing the PVC Stewardship Program (PSP) back in 2002 when the collective industry recognised and took responsibility for identifying safer alternatives and voluntarily phasing out the potentially harmful additive.
Whilst original signatories to the program ceased the use of lead stabilisers by the end of 2012, new companies signing up to the Program were found to be using them in specific, low volume applications where technically feasible alternatives had not yet been identified. As signatories to the Program, they have been required to report annually on the use and the progress in phasing them out. In 2019, no signatory reported any use of lead stabilisers or pigments.
“We are very pleased to see that the use of lead-based additives has been eliminated and this represents a key achievement of our program,” said Sophi MacMillan.
The full 2019 Annual Report for the PSP is now available on the Vinyl Council’s website and tracks the progress made by the industry over recent years. In total, 42 Signatories completed their annual assessment, which was down on 2018 in part due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The program benchmarks company performance. Two Signatories, APN Compounding and Polyflor Australia attained Excellence for the first time. Other big improvers were Altro APAC and Kenbrock Flooring. “We congratulate these companies as well as all those who achieved Excellence in PVC Stewardship for 2019/20” said Sophi.
A list of Signatories that achieved Excellence in 2019/20 can be found on the Vinyl Council’s website https://www.vinyl.org.au/signatories.
The issue of waste and resource recovery has dominated the political and sustainability agenda in the last two years and it remains a key issue for the community, and by extension the vinyl sector. To help drive markets for recyclate, the Program introduced a commitment four years ago that PVC product suppliers would bring products containing recycled PVC to the market. An increasing number of Signatories are fulfilling this commitment (two-thirds of eligible signatories in 2019) with increased volumes of recovered PVC being recycled into new applications and products.
“In 2019 we saw an 8% increase in use of locally produced PVC recyclate in locally made new products of our signatory companies, which means, over the past four years, these companies have diverted almost 2,500 tonnes of PVC into new use,” said Jan van de Graaff, who heads the Council’s national stewardship program.
“Our Program is dynamic, and we continually seek to raise the bar in terms of delivering triple bottom line outcomes. This was one of the reasons for introducing a Commitment governing modern slavery in 2019 and means we are one of very few Australian stewardship schemes that takes a broader view of sustainability.”
This Commitment is relevant to all our Signatories and requires them to identify and address the risk of modern slavery in the PVC supply chain. “We are pleased to see so many of our Signatories acting swiftly - more than 4 out of 5 signatories commenced this supply chain investigation in 2019.”
The full report can be found at https://www.vinyl.org.au/images/2019-PSP-FINAL-PUBLISHED-Annual-Report.pdf
The Vinyl Council of Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s commitment of $190 million into a Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) that is expected to ‘drive a billion-dollar transformation’ of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.
The RMF will support innovative investment in new recycling infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials, including mixed plastics.
“We believe this funding is much needed, well targeted and an excellent opportunity to refine the current systems,” says Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia. “Australia lags Europe and numerous other countries around the world in terms of sorting, recovery and recycling of mixed plastics and this fund has the potential to help bridge this gap.”
The Vinyl Council has long been calling for this waste to be sorted more thoroughly, enabling plastics such as vinyl to be recycled.
The third most commonly used type of plastic, vinyl (or PVC as it is also known) is used in virtually every sector of the economy from healthcare devices, consumer goods, food and agriculture to education, building and infrastructure. Due to its excellent durability, vinyl is mostly used in long life applications but also some niche packaging applications for its specific functional properties. Although relatively small volumes present in the waste stream annually, these low volumes have often mitigated against investment in developing collection, sorting, and processing infrastructure.
The Vinyl Council believes new investment is needed in a range of systems and technologies to enable recovery, material separation and recycling across our communities and sectors, as well as improved policy drivers that address and incentivize the system holistically from managing waste as a valuable resource to use of recyclate in well-designed, high value, new products.
Since 2002, the Vinyl Council’s PVC Stewardship Program, which commits participating companies to strive for continuous improvement in the environmental footprint of PVC products, has encouraged improved recycling practices for vinyl products in Australia. Signatories have committed to using recycled PVC in new products, particularly in industrial, building and infrastructure products, as well as minimising production wastes and packaging waste sent to landfill.
Annual reporting has found the amount of PVC being recycled by local manufacturing Program signatories grew for a third successive year in 2019 and is now more than double the amount used in 2016.
Ensuring sufficient, consistent local supply of quality recyclate for these manufacturers going forward is a challenge. The Vinyl Council is optimistic that the funding package announced by the Honourable Sussan Ley, Minister for the Environment, will help address this and enable the vinyl resource stream to be retained within the productive economy.
“As our core purpose is to enhance the industry’s opportunities for sustainable growth, we have been working with members and stakeholders to improve PVC recycling,” MacMillan explains. “Our PVC Circularity Taskforce brings together industry and government representatives to drive the industry’s circular economy objectives.
“Working with this forum and with the support of the Federal Government and interested State jurisdictions, we believe we can fast track new technologies that produce suitable clean and sorted PVC for remanufacture locally”, she adds.
Further investment in source separation of wastes and secondary sorting facilities would support the recovery of, for example, rigid PVC packaging materials, which are readily recyclable but often not separated from the co-mingled plastics waste stream.
“We look forward to mobilising and realising these opportunities with interested State Government agencies to improve environmental outcomes and stimulate employment, particularly given the current economic challenges,” MacMillan adds.
“Our members are committed to the circular economy, which has the opportunity to grow substantially if all levels of government harness their purchasing power to support those companies that are active participants in product stewardship schemes and are manufacturing recycled content products.”
PVC used in windows and building products has proven performance benefits in the event of fire due to its inherent flame retardancy, that will not cause, support or enhance the development of fire. Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia analyses the latest technical guidance on PVC fire safety.
PVC, or vinyl, is the most widely used polymer in building and construction applications with up to 70% of global annual PVC production used in this sector. Plastic products contribute to greater building energy efficiency, cost savings, construction safety, lower embodied carbon and design versatility.
The material’s increasing use over the last six decades in construction and furnishing of buildings has led to a thorough assessment of its fire performance that shows the distinct advantages of uPVC (unplasticised or rigid PVC) over many other building materials, including timber, in the event of fire. Crucially, PVC, especially unplasticised PVC (uPVC or PVC-U) has inherently superior fire performance due to its chlorine content that acts as a natural fire retardant, setting it apart from other polymers such as polyethylene.
Specifiers, architects, construction and fire professionals can learn more about the material’s credentials in the 2019 ISO Technical Report: ‘Plastics – Guidance on fire characteristics and fire performance of PVC materials used in building applications’, which serves as a valuable technical reference document for the specification of PVC products at the design or pre-building phase.
So, what are the benefits of PVC fire performance characteristics and how can these contribute to enhanced safety in the event of fire?
uPVC is inherently fire retardant: The high chlorine content of uPVC acts as a natural flame retardant, greatly reducing its combustibility. Unlike most timber building elements, uPVC building elements (such as window frames and permanent formwork) do not support combustion and are in fact self-extinguishing. In reaction to fire tests, the report states that due to its high content of chlorine, ‘PVC-U displays a high resistance to ignition, a low rate of heat release, and self-extinguishes when the external heat source is removed’.
uPVC is slow to ignite: uPVC is far less likely to burn due to its resistance to ignition, thus contributing to fire safety. The temperature required to ignite uPVC (391 degrees C), such as that used in window profiles and permanent formwork, is higher than that needed for wood (260 degrees C).The report’s comparison data of some results for PVC with those of other materials regarding ignition times and heat flux values to cause ignition respectively ‘illustrate the good ignition resistance’ of PVC materials.
uPVC is self-extinguishing: Most PVC formulations are not just difficult to ignite - they will self-extinguish when the flame source is removed because of the high levels of chlorine present in PVC. This makes PVC particularly suitable for rigid applications such as windows, doors and permanent formwork & lining used in construction, and is a significant positive for fire safety.
uPVC has a limited flame spread compared to other materials: Burning uPVC chars and will self-extinguish if the external heat or flame source is removed, making it inherently resistant to flame spread. It rarely produces flaming droplets or burning debris, which are a major cause of flame spread. Generally, uPVC profile has a low flame spread index (FSI) value of 15 to 20. In comparison, Douglas fir/cedar plywood FSI value is much higher at 190-230.
uPVC permanent formwork systems have been tested to AS5113 (BS8414) façade test and successfully passed the no flame spread criteria, and tested to AS1530.3 to achieve Spread of Flame Index of 0.
uPVC heat release: Heat release is a key factor regarding fire safety. Data on measurement of peak heat release rates (PHRR) and fire performance index (FPI) values shows that PVC materials ‘behave well’ when compared to other polymers and timber.
For example, uPVC permanent formwork systems have been tested to AS1530.3 to achieve Heat Evolved Index of 0.
In room-corner fire tests on wall-lining materials, the PVC systems outperformed the others, including wood, polycarbonate and FR ABS, with substantially lower average and total heat release rates. None of the PVC materials caused flashover. The study also showed that the low flame spread/low heat release characteristics of PVC materials tend to also exhibit low smoke release.
uPVC smoke density and toxicity in fires: Burning PVC releases a heavy smoke. However, smoke measurement tests show that PVC materials do not present a significantly greater smoke hazard than many other commonly used materials.
PVC and fire safety. In the context of fire safety objectives, survey data shows that only 10% to 15% of all plastics in a private house are in construction products. A much higher proportion (85% to 90%) of plastics are brought into a building by the occupants, such as furniture, household and technology appliances, toys and packaging.
As a strong, recyclable and versatile building material, with inherent fire retardancy, PVC is an excellent safe and long-life choice for myriad construction applications.In Australia, uPVC window frames have been developed and tested specifically to meet construction requirements for designated Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL) within Australian Standards for Construction in Bushfire Prone Areas (AS 3959:2009). And uPVC permanent formwork systems can meet BAL FZ (flame zone) construction requirements.
uPVC windows with metal reinforcing are permitted in zones classified as up to BAL-29 (where the number represents the heat flux in kW m²) risk. Some u-PVC window systems have been independently tested and comply with AS 1530.8.1 which permits their use in zones BAL-40 and above.
While people are, naturally and rightly, concerned about combustibility of plastics, it is important to understand the difference between the characteristics and properties of different polymers. And crucially, that PVC’s high chlorine content (57%) - a fire retardant -sets it apart from other polymers.
Australian manufactured uPVC permanent formwork systems have extensively been fire tested to demonstrate their fire performance compliance with the relevant requirements of the NCC. These fire tests include (but are not limited to) AS5113 (BS8414) façade fire test, AS5637.1 (ISO9705) room test classification test, AS1530.4 fire resistance level testing, and AS1530.3 fire hazard indices test.
PVC is undoubtedly one of our most successful modern synthetic building materials that has undergone rigorous assessment on its effect on health and the environment. It is time to reassess our attitudes towards this proven safe material.