Vinyl Recycling Success Stories

Introduction

Too often, people look at vinyl recycling with skepticism, and question whether vinyl is really recyclable. The Vinyl Institute has been asked many times to provide concrete examples to prove that vinyl is actually being recycled.

Well, that’s just what we’ve done in this packet of Vinyl Recycling Success Stories. Below you will find several case histories offering just a glimpse of the vinyl recycling going on around the world. The recycling programs highlighted here are helping to conserve landfill space while serving as models of efficient resource utilization.

Some of these programs are even taking an extra step to protect wildlife and the environment, like Brentwood Industries' "BIOReef" recycled vinyl artificial reef. Others are tackling tough recycling challenges through wire and cable scrap recovery programs or medical waste recycling projects. And still others - like Rhovyl's program to recycle vinyl water bottles into sweater yarn - are increasing consumer awareness of recycling through innovative recycled vinyl applications.

Please show these Success Stories to anyone who doubts that vinyl can be and is being recycled. And, as always, if you need any further information about vinyl recycling, please call our Vinyl Environmental Resource Center at (800) 969-VINYL (8469).

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PVC Bottles to Full-Service Recycling: East Coast Recycling Associates

When East Coast Recycling Associates (ECRA) processed its first product in 1988, the company was just a small mixed post-consumer plastic bottle recycling business focusing on HDPE and PET. A decade or so later, ECRA has grown into a major vinyl recycler processing more than six million pounds of vinyl a year and the sole processor of post-consumer PVC containers in the United States. ECRA's full-cycle processing facility located in Millville, N.J., can turn raw material into virtually any form depending on customers' specifications - from manual and optical sorting, shredding, grinding and washing to float-sink separation and pulverizing. Through a technical cooperation program with the Vinyl Institute, the company has also developed a unique commercial production line capable of reducing the PVC flake to a fine powder. ECRA now handles scrap from vinyl siding, windows, doors, fencing, decking, piping and flooring, and recycles and custom blends both post-industrial and post-consumer PVC, PET and HDPE for customers located along the Eastern Seaboard and as far west as Ohio and Illinois.

Vinyl Siding to Collection Cages: Reily Recovery Systems

Two years after grants from the Vinyl Institute and other private sources helped establish Reily Recovery Systems (RRS) in Sanford, N.C., the company's annual recycling output has grown to more than two million pounds. Thanks to many unique ways RRS serves its customers, the company returns 97 percent of its yearly output to the manufacturing process. In the short period of time since its inception, the business has developed an extensive base of customers who use the RRS-recycled vinyl to produce new PVC pipe, mobile home skirting and other vinyl products. However, accepting vinyl scrap from mobile home manufacturers and major area building contractors and distributors is not the only thing RRS does. In a unique initiative across the industry, the company also supplies collection cages to vinyl siding users for separating and collecting their vinyl scrap. The company's success has allowed RRS to expand the operations to include other vinyl building products as well as flexible packaging in its recycling process.

Vinyl Sheet to Artificial Underwater Reef: BIOReef

Recycled vinyl sheet from Klöckner-Pentaplast is being formed into a honeycomb shape by Brentwood Industries, Reading, Pennsylvania, and sunk in coastal waters as a replacement for natural reefs. The artificial "BIOReef" then provides a realistic habitat for fish, algae and other sea life where natural reefs may have been damaged or destroyed. A BIOReef was deployed off the west coast of Florida in 1993 and is now the home of the natural aquatic life. Fish now have a place to live and a food source to sustain them, where no natural reef had existed before.

Profile Waste to New Windows: Mikron Industries

Vinyl window and door extrusion manufacturer Mikron Industries of Kent, Wash., Richmond, Ky., and Winnebago, Ill., not only recycles in-house waste generated during its processes, but it also buys back its customers’ window fabrication process scrap for recycling at a competitive market price. Mikron’s buy-back program offers customers an alternative to landfilling - helping to divert millions of pounds of PVC waste each year from landfills. What’s more, Mikron recycles its internally generated vinyl scrap. This pure MikronBlendTM   formula scrap is used to produce new Mikron vinyl window extrusions and protective packaging for windows, as well as products used for PVC drainage.

Floorcovering to Parking Bumpers: Collins & Aikman Floorcoverings

Collins & Aikman Floorcoverings diverts millions of pounds of discarded carpeting from landfills each year through its "Infinity Initiative" program. The Infinity Initiative process chops, granulates and recycles pallets of reclaimed, worn-out floorcoverings into products such as outdoor parking stops (bumpers) and industrial flooring. These new products are stronger, more durable and last longer than the products they replace. They’re also resistant to water damage, will not break or deteriorate, and can’t leach harmful chemicals, unlike other materials such as pressure-treated lumber. The virtually indestructible parking stops are in use around the country. In addition, 1996 marked the introduction of Collins & Aikman’s recycled floorcovering with a 75 percent recycled-content vinyl backing.

Profile Waste to Retaining Walls: Crane Plastics, Inc

Crane Plastics, Inc., manufacturers of C-LOC® Engineered Vinyl Sheet Piling, of Columbus, Ohio, uses 89 percent vinyl regrind from vinyl windows and siding profiles to manufacture retaining walls or bulkheads. Tony Groh, product manager of C-Loc, says that strength and durability are the main reasons why vinyl regrind is used. "It has no problems taking blows from our 3,000-pound drop hammers," he says. "It doesn’t leach and is easily UV-stabilized – an important quality for products that are constantly exposed to the sun." Groh adds another reason why vinyl is the material of choice, "Earth pressures can be so heavy, only exterior-grade vinyl can be used." Primary targets for the recycled-content retaining walls, which include noise barriers and bulkheads or sea walls, are golf course managers, marina owners and general contractors.

Hospital Waste to Checkbook Covers & Binders: Conigliaro Industries

Massachusetts-based Conigliaro Industries is a full-service recycler in the healthcare and medical bio-tech industries. Company President Greg Conigliaro says that marketing efforts aimed at educating hospitals have been key to growing the volume of PVC materials his firm recycles. The company, which works with 60+ hospitals and bio-tech firms, often helps hospitals set-up vinyl recycling programs that collect IV and saline bags, sterile packaging, employee ID cards and other PVC medical plastics. In the past, PVC materials collected and processed at Conigliaro have been made into checkbook covers and plastic binders. Aside from medical plastics, the company also handles PVC roofing membrane, vinyl siding and post-industrial molding scrap. In just six years, Conigliaro has increased its vinyl recycling efforts from 5,000 to 500,000 pounds per year.

Profile Waste to New Windows: VEKA AG

VEKA Inc. has created a basis for not only ecologically but also economically sensible raw material recycling. At the company's recycling facility located in Behringer, Germany, pure-grade PVC is reclaimed and fed back into profile production through a state-of-the-art recycling process without any loss in quality. VEKA Germany, the parent company of VEKA Inc. located in Fombell, Pa., and Reno, Nev., opened this high-tech recycling plant in 1993. The plant currently employs 48 people and has a maximum production capacity of 20,000 tons of PVC per year. The shredder used in the process can recycle 36 tons of old vinyl windows, doors and shutters within one hour. Of all the processed materials, 97.5 percent can be recovered, and the purity grade of the recycled PVC is 100 percent.

Bottles to Fashionable Knitwear: Rhovyl/La Dunoise

Rhovyl, a French clothing manufacturer, has teamed up with Elf Atochem, a French additives company, to produce fashionable sweaters under the Charles Dubourg label. The fibers used to produce the yarn for the sweaters are made from post-consumer recycled PVC mineral water bottles. Approximately 27 bottles are needed to produce one sweater and the fiber is combined with wool in a 70/30 percent vinyl/wool blend. Scarves and socks are also produced. Elf Atochem and Rhovyl worked together to develop the technology used to transform old bottles into new clothing.

France distributes 80 percent of its mineral water in vinyl containers, and uses approximately four billion bottles annually. Thanks to innovative recycling ideas like this one, about one-half of those bottles are being recycled.