<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Sustainable development
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Recycling - Life Cycle Analysis

 

Choosing the best way to deal with wastes is not always straightforward.

Household waste may contain metal cans, mixed plastics, food, paper and glass.

 

Is recycling a good idea?

This seems a stupid question. However, recycling PVC from household waste is a complicated process.

Each of the stages in recycling PVC will require energy and carbon dioxide will be released from vehicles used to transport the different wastes.

New 'end of life' regulations are coming into effect that make it a legal requirement for manufacturers to make their products easier to recycle. Targets have been set to increase the levels of recycling in the European Union.

Recycling PVC

 

This symbol shows that the material is PVC and can be recycled.

 

PVC commitment to sustainability

The PVC industry in Europe is committed to sustainable development.

Recycling PVC helps to:

  • reduce the need for oils, gas and rock salt to make PVC pellets for new products;

  • reduce waste PVC that is sent to landfill sites.

 

Life cycle analysis: household waste

A study in Milton Keynes, England, looked at the recycling of household mixed waste. It compared the environmental impacts of recycling with disposal to landfill. The results are summarised below.

 

Household waste.

Recycling PVC results in a lot less carbon dioxide than landfill. But it costs more and results in other emissions. Overall, the picture is not clear.

PVC sent to landfill is a lost resource and yet recycling household waste is expensive and still has environmental impacts. This shows the complexity of sustainable development.

Mixed household waste disposal in Milton Keynes

 

PVC recycling

Landfill disposal

Total carbon dioxide emissions

53.9 kg CO2

156.3 kg CO2

Release of acid rain gases
(SO2, NOx and HCl - kg H+ equiv)

64.8 kg

46.4 kg

Nutrification of water
(Phosphate equivalents)

0.23 kg

0.12 kg

Cost

£11.55

£7.46

 

All figures given are for 1 tonne of PVC waste separated from mixed household waste.

 

PVC-rich wastes

Household waste contains only about 2% of PVC and recycling is less efficient than using wastes with a much higher PVC content.

Window frames, doors and pipes from demolition waste is a much richer source of PVC. The recycling of these products make a much more economically-sustainable and efficient contribution to sustainable PVC.

In 2004, the UK recycled about 10,000 tonnes of PVC.

A PVC window frame section. After recycling it could make packaging, car parts or new window frames.


Household waste recycling data is from the
Centre for Social and Economic Research
on the Global Environment,
in the University of East Anglia.