PVC (Polyvinyl-chloride) is one of the earliest plastics, and is also one of the most extensively used. It is derived from salt (57%) and oil or gas (43%). PVC is made from chlorine – produced when salt water is decomposed by electrolysis – with ethylene, which is obtained from oil or gas via a ‘cracking’ process. After several steps, this leads to the production of another gas: vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Then, in a further reaction known as polymerisation, molecules of VCM link to form a fine white powder (PVC). This powder is mixed with additives (stabilisers and/or plasticizers) to achieve the precise properties required for specific applications. The resulting PVC granules (compounds) or ready-to-use powders (pre-mixes) are then converted into the final product.
The benefits of PVC
PVC’s combination of properties enables it to deliver performance advantages that are hard to match. This material is durable and light, strong, fire resistant, with excellent insulating properties and low permeability. By varying the use of additives in the manufacturing of PVC products, features such as strength, rigidity, colour and transparency can be adjusted to meet most applications, including:
- Packaging, for toiletries, pharmaceuticals, food and confectionary, water and fruit juices, labels, presentation trays.
- Leisure products, including garden hoses, footwear, inflatable pools, tents.
- Building products, including window frames, floor and wall coverings, roofing sheets, linings for tunnels, swimming-pools and reservoirs.
- Piping, including water and sewerage pipes and fittings, and ducts for power and telecommunications.
- Medical products, including blood bags, transfusion tubes and surgical gloves.
- Coatings, including tarpaulins, rainwear, and corrugated metal sheets.
- Insulation and sheathing for low voltage power supplies, telecommunications, appliances, and automotive applications.
- Automotive applications, including cables, underbody coating andf interior trimmings.