Looking for sustainable products: the case for their sustainable use

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VinylPlus® has been a front runner of the circular economy for over 20 years. As the new Circular Economy Action Plan shines a light on sustainable products, VinylPlus’ next commitment to sustainability targets towards 2030 will outline how the European PVC industry will continue to further increase the sustainability performance and sustainable use of PVC products for a safe and circular future.

VinylPlus® is the voluntary commitment to sustainable development of the European PVC industry, working to increase the sustainability performance of PVC.

Since the European Commission published its new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) in March 2020, Brussels has been alive with (virtual) activity with policymakers, companies, trade associations, and civil society organisations alike, seeking to shape upcoming initiatives. The Sustainable Products Initiative is one of such initiatives and is considered by many to be a cornerstone of the CEAP. Due by the end of 2021, it promises to extend the Ecodesign Directive beyond energy-related products and introduces minimum sustainability and/or information requirements for products placed on the EU market.

The sustainable use of products should be at the heart of the CEAP’s implementation, reflected in all related initiatives from the Sustainable Products Initiative to the Renovation Wave and the much-awaited Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment.

What do we know about products?

Currently, the Digital Product Passport is being floated by the EU Commission as a horizontal measure to the Sustainable Products Initiative to ensure that information related to a product’s sustainability, circularity, value retention for reuse, remanufacturing or recycling, is retained throughout the lifecycle of that product. Since 2000, VinylPlus is committed to product sustainability and circularity and has already developed sustainability certification schemes such as the VinylPlus® Product Label. The Product Label, requiring third party verification of a number of strict sustainability requirements, has now been awarded to 128 products and product systems manufactured at 19 European sites by 11 companies.

More than an industry commitment, the VinylPlus® Product Label actively contributes to a more sustainable built environment by ensuring product traceability and providing a common methodology to assess the sustainability performance of the materials. The VinylPlus® Product Label has now become the very first certification scheme dedicated to plastic building and construction products to be recognised as Responsible Sourcing Certification Scheme within BREEAM®, the world’s most used green building standard.

A sustainable built environment starts with sustainable materials

Looking more specifically at the building and construction sector, the Renovation Wave, presented in October 2020, has rightly gained a lot of attention. By renovating 35 million energy inefficient buildings by 2030, the European Commission aims to cut the building stock’s emissions, boost recovery by creating jobs and reduce energy poverty.  VinylPlus, together with the entire European PVC value chain, welcomes this ambition and stands ready to leverage its recycling network to play its part to support the Renovation Wave and enable the transition to a Sustainable Built Environment.

As the most widely used polymer in building and construction, ensuring that end-of-life PVC is recycled will be integral to ensuring that renovation efforts do not result in the unnecessary generation of landfill waste and major emissions of carbon dioxide. Thanks to collection and recycling schemes implemented by VinylPlus over the past 20 years, 6.5 million tonnes of PVC have been recycled into new products since 2000, preventing the release of nearly 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and creating 1,500 direct jobs in recycling plants.

Further, VinylPlus is committed to supporting the European Commission in its efforts to deliver a more sustainable building and construction sector. Therefore VinylPlus actively supported the establishment of the European Commission’s Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA) and aims to share our experience of making construction materials more sustainable by chairing the CPA Construction Working Group.

With over 20 years of experience, VinylPlus has gained a significant amount of knowledge and expertise on delivering products that show advanced sustainability performance and our efforts are not limited to the construction sector. Projects such as VinylPlus® Med for example, brings together hospitals, waste management companies, recyclers and the PVC industry to recycle discarded single-use PVC medical devices. VinylPlus is also engaging in projects to promote reuse such as the Urban Agriculture Project that reuses PVC building waste to build gardens in urban spaces. Further, as can be seen in the recently published VinylPlus Progress Report 2021, the PVC value chain has made steady progress in terms of product stewardship, research into innovative technologies and improvement of the environmental footprint of PVC over the past two decades.

Ensuring the sustainable use of products is a long-term commitment

With the Sustainable Products Initiative scheduled for the end of the year and a Strategy for a Built Environment expected by next year, the PVC industry is renewing its commitment to continue supporting the transition to a safe and circular economy and will continue to promote the sustainable use of PVC products across sectors.

Building on the achievements of our current programme and on our partners expectations, VinylPlus has developed its next 10-year commitment to sustainable development looking towards 2030. The new commitment brings together in a single platform the united PVC industry’s sustainability ambitions and provides us with a roadmap towards improving the sustainable use of PVC products. As new policy initiatives are launched and decision-makers are looking at various regulatory options, we will remain true to this roadmap and use it as a guide to share our expertise and help decision makers find the best solutions.

As a united value chain, we have much to be proud of, but we know that our accomplishments are milestones towards creating a sustainable and circular future. The PVC value chain looks forward to officially launching its next 10-year commitment to sustainable development towards 2030 on 17 June at the VinylPlus Sustainability Forum (VSF) 2021 in Brussels.*

*VinylPlus 2030 Commitment has now been launched! Click here to learn about the next 10-year Commitment of the European PVC industry to sustainable development.

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