Overview of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) waste management practices in the Nordic countries

This article reviews the situation with PVC waste management practices in the Nordic region (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland). The region is known for high recycling rates and advanced environmental standards, but also a significant share of incineration.

We found that the statistics on PVC waste management in the region is surprisingly poor. Estimates on PVC waste generation are sporadic and not reliable and formalized reporting systems are largely lacking. Except for Denmark and a few municipalities in other countries, there are no separate national collection and recycling systems for post-consumer PVC waste. Separate collection and recycling exists only for pre-consumers waste, but there are voluntary initiatives organised by some producers/importers of flooring and piping products. These systems collect a relatively small share of the total PVC waste. Much larger amounts of PVC end up with mixed waste and are eventually treated in waste-to-energy plants.

Several factors influence this situation. The environmental impacts of PVC waste are still underexplored, which partly shape the existing national waste policies and management strategies. PVC waste consists of different types of materials of diverse origins, which makes it difficult to recycle due to high quality demands for the recycled material. Separate collection is costly and there are no economies of scale. Meanwhile, the existing overcapacity of incineration infrastructure and possibilities for high temperature treatment complying to high emissions standards, results in that energy recovery is the easiest option for PVC treatment. Increasing material recovery requires additional policy interventions, which could be considered analysed in future research.

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