Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Properties, Production, Price, Market, and Uses
PVC is a durable and long lasting versatile plastic with a variety of end segment applications. It is available in both the forms rigid and flexible, which are durable and light-weight can be clear or colored. They are applicable for a variety of uses in end segment.
Table of Contents
- What is PVC Resin?
- Grades Available
- PVC Production
– Production Capacity
- Polyvinyl Chloride Pricing Trend
- PVC Market
– Per Capita Consumption
– PVC Sales in Europe
– Market Forecast
- Global Trade of PVC
– Trade Balance
– Top 10 Countries Exporting
– Top 10 Countries Importing
– Countries Importing Door & Windows
- PVC and Additives
- World PVC Stabilizers Market Forecast
- Why is PVC the most preferred material?
- Applications of PVC
- Advantages & Disadvantages
- Is Polyvinyl Chloride Toxic?
- PVC and Sustainability
Polyvinyl chloride is the most commonly used thermoplastic polymer such as PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and PP (Polypropylene) made from the polymerization of vinyl chloride. It is an odorless solid plastic which is naturally white and brittle in nature.
It is a synthetic resin made of 57% Chlorine (derived from industrial salt) and remaining 43% comprising of Carbon (derived from oil and gases). It is comparatively less dependent on nonrenewable resources (crude oil and natural gas) than other polymers, therefore, can be regarded as resource saving plastic for future.
These polymers offer a wide range of applications due to its versatile nature. It is most commonly used in the construction industry but is also used in a variety of other industries such as transport, packaging, healthcare, electrical/electronic and even it is used as the fiber for clothing.
It is produced in two different forms of grades, first is rigid or unplasticized PVC resin (RPVC and UPVC) and second is the flexible plastic.
Flexible Polyvinyl chloride resins are more soft and amendable than the rigid ones due to the addition of plasticizers such as diisononyl phthalate. Rigid Polyvinyl chloride resins are primarily used for producing pipes whereas flexible ones are commonly used for insulation on electric wires or flooring and in different areas where the sterile environment is a priority.
It was first accidentally synthesized in 1872 by German chemist Eugen Baumann and has been produced commercially since the 1920s initially started by B.F Goodrich company.
These plastic polymers offer a lot of varied applications in almost all end segment markets where plastics are used. Properties of this material allow flexibility and attract many end-user industries for usage in their products.
These properties include:
- They are very dense in composition as compared to their competing plastics.
- It is readily available and at very economical prices
- It is very hard in nature (especially rigid grade)
- Offers more strength & durability
- Has a good amount of resistance towards heat, chemicals & stress cracking.
|Properties||Rigid PVC||Flexible PVC|
|Coefficient of thermal expansion||5*10-5|
It offers a high amount of hardness & mechanical properties. The mechanical properties increase with increasing amount of molecular weight and decrease with rising in temperature. The mechanical properties include:
- Tensile strength – 52MPa
- Elongation at break – 50-80%
- Elastic modulus – 1.5-3MPa
This resin material posses good insulation properties due to its high polar nature the electric properties are inferior to other forms of nonpolar polymers (polypropylene, polyethylene).
The electrical properties of the material are as follows:
- Dielectric strength – 1.4-20 Kv/mm
- Dielectric Constant (Permittivity) – 3.9 (3.3)
- Dissipation factor (power factor) – 0.01 (0.02)
- Volume & Surface resistivity – 2 x 1014 Ω.m & 1013 – 1014 Ω
Thermal & Fire Properties
The raw form of material carries a poor amount of heat stability thus, heat stabilizers are added during the production process to attain desired property.
- Softening point – 80-84°C
- Thermal Conductivity – 0.16 W/(m.K)
- Coefficient of thermal expansion – 7 x 10-5 K
- Specific heat – 1,000 J/(kg.K)
- Flammability – 0.45
- Smoke produce index – 6-8(/10)
It is resistant towards acids, salts, bases, fats & alcohols. This is the reason it is commonly used for sewage piping.
It is also resistant towards number of solvents, fuels & also some of the paint thinners
These plastic materials are also produced like other plastic polymers through the process of polymerization. It is commonly produced by polymerization of vinyl chloride monomer in three different methods which include suspension, emulsion, and bulk (mass) polymerization.
More than 80% of production is done by suspension polymerization where vinyl chloride (used as raw material) is pressurized, liquefied fed into the reactor. Later in emulsion process, finer resin grades having small particles are produced. Later it is produced in bulk and transported to produce goods.
As the graph depicts there has been continuous growth in production capacity of these plastic resins in the forecasted period. The Global Production capacity has reached up to 61 million tons in 2016 from 53 million tons in the year 2013.
There has been a rise in this production level due to increasing demand for this material from end-segment industries. Increasing population, urbanization and rise in income level of people has also resulted in increased demand for this material which accelerates production.
Major sectors responsible for this growth in production due to increased demand for these polymers are building and construction, automotive market & medical sector.
Polyvinyl chloride is a highly competitive market with a number of manufacturers. Leading manufacturers along with their production capacity for the year 2016 are illustrated in the above graph.
Shin-Etsu Chemical has the highest production capacity of 3,850 kt in the year 2016 which is further followed by Formosa Plastics with the production capacity of 3,300 kt.
Other leading manufacturers in the global production market for 2016 include Inovyn with (2,500 kt), ChemChina with (1,950 kt), Mexichem and Westlake with (1,800 kt).
Global Market Demand has witnessed continuous growth in the recent years. The market demand has increased from 38.3 million tons in 2013 to 41.3 million tons in 2016.
Market drivers responsible for this growth in demand include:
- Increasing demand from end segment markets (construction, automotive, packaging, footwear & medical etc).
- Their unique properties (high performance, lightweight & durability) increase their demand from different sectors.
- Continuous research & innovation for usage of this material in different forms or as the replacement also fuel the market demand.
- It is a versatile plastic material commonly used for the number of products of end segment market. The above chart depicts the share of prominent applications of the material in consumption for the year 2016.
- Construction sector drives the polyvinyl consumption market as pipes & fitting held the maximum share of about 42% in the total consumption (41.3 million tons) for the year 2016. It was further followed by profiles with 19% share.
- Films & sheet market also held an important portion of share with 17% contribution in global consumption which was followed by wires & cables that is the electronics sector with 9% share.
- Remaining sectors contributed 13% of the total market consumption for the material in 2016.
In the year 2016 Global Per capita Consumption for these plastic materials was up to 5.5 kg per capita.
Asian-pacific regions have the maximum contribution in the global consumer market among which China & India have the largest share. Per capita consumption of China in 2016 was 12 kg per capita and India contributed 2.5 kg per capita.
Europe is one of the prominent markets selling these materials globally with an increased amount of sale every year. Among all European regions, France has its maximum contribution with sales of 1168.83 kilo tons previous year followed by Spain with 447.1 kilo tons.
The other two prominent European countries selling this polymer globally are Hungary with sales of 275.09 kilo tons in 2016 followed by the UK with sales of 246.87 kilo tons.
It the third most produced and consumed the type of polymer after polypropylene and polyethylene. Demand for these plastic resins have increased over a period of time and is expected to increase in near future with an increased growth rate.
The global market demand is expected to more than US$ 68bn by 2020.
These materials involve a wide range of applications including electric cables, pipes, furniture, healthcare, fiber, and clothing. They are also being used in a number of daily use products like bottles, credit cards, films & packaging etc.
The global market demand is primarily driven by construction industry with a number of uses in household, commercial and industrial sector.
Other factors driving the market demand are high-performance plastics are helping to improve fuel economy, increase production and consumption of light weight vehicles, ease of recycling and others.
The production cost of these resins is highly influenced by its raw material prices such as chlorine, ethylene & acetylene. The fluctuating prices of raw materials especially in Asian-Pacific regions restrain the market growth.
Asia-Pacific has the highest demand for these polymers due to rising population, urbanization and increased amount of construction activities in these regions. These regions are further followed by North America, Europe, and South America & Middle East & Africa.
Usually, demand in countries like Europe, Italy, and Germany remains moderate or even stagnant due debt crisis and depressed business environment (slow moderate recovery) in these regions.
The leading manufacturing companies for these plastic polymers include Aiscondel, Arkema, Chemplast Sanmar Limited, Chemson Group, Formosa Plastics Corporation, INEOS Group Ltd, LG Chem, Ltd, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Solvay, and PolyOne Corporation.
The trade balance of PVC in 2016 was US$ 0.63bn. The export of PVC for the year 2016 was US$ 10.26bn and the import was US$ 9.64bn. The global trade balance of PVC from last five year is constant excepting 2015. The trade balance in 2015 was negative.
The export market of PVC is dominated by the United States. The United States was the largest exporter of PVC in 2016. It exported PVC polymer in a primary form worth of US$ 2.12bn. The United States has competitive advantages of abundant shale gas which results in low-cost ethylene. Ethylene is the major raw material used in the production of PVC.
The second largest exporter of the polymer was Germany with an export value of US$ 819.46mn. The third largest exporter of PVC material globally was China. It exported the material worth of US$ 789.63mn followed by Taiwan worth of US$ 761.51mn
China is the world’s largest importer of PVC polymer in primary form. It imported polymer worth of US$ 683.02mn. The major driver for the Chinese market is because of growth in the construction and infrastructure industries. The demand for PVC pipes & fittings, cables, windows etc is increasing.
The second largest importer is Turkey and it imported polymer worth of US$ 618.83mn followed by Italy US$ 598.36mn.
Demand for doors, windows, and frames made up of plastics have been continuously increasing due to growing urbanization and commercialization. The adoption rate for plastic doors, windows and their frames and thresholds for doors of plastics is too high due to its easy availability, cost, and maintenance.
The demand for plastic doors windows and frames in is growing over its other substitutes due to its properties which offer longer life cycle, enhanced aesthetic looks, high thermal resistance, easy material availability and high performance
As seen the growth rate of Import for doors, windows, frames, and thresholds made of plastics were highest in The United States of America for the year 2016 which was worth $233 Million followed by France importing doors, windows, and frames worth $215 Million.
The other Top importing countries were Switzerland (US$ 201 mn), France (US$ 171 mn), Canada (US$99 mn), Italy (US$97 mn), Austria (US$96 mn), United Kingdom (US$95 mn), Czech Republic (US$58 mn), and Luxembourg (US$49 mn).
Market Drivers and Challenges
The market for plastic doors, windows and frames has witnessed continuous growth in recent years and are expected to continue growing in the forecasted period.
Factors driving the market are growing urbanization and commercialization across the globe, rising population primarily in developing countries such as China and India which result in increased government spending in building more infrastructure facilities which boost the demand for such advance and reliable products.
Developed countries like European countries also tend to increase the market demand for plastic doors windows and frames in construction carried out to enhance the artistic beauty and standard of living of the countries.
Other factors driving the market are excessive demand from end segment markets such as automotive etc, partnerships and acquisition taking place in the industry and technical innovations to enhance products. However, serious environmental concerns hinder the market growth.
Leading market players for plastic doors, windows and frames are Schuco, Sapa Building Systems, Corialis, Pella, PGT, Andersen Corporation, Atrium, Eurocell, Reynaers, and YKK Corporation
Usually, before producing products polyvinyl chloride polymers are added with some additives to enhance their functionality. These additives have the capability to influence properties majorly, the mechanical properties, color and clarity, weather fastness etc.
The process of adding additives to this material in the production process is termed as “compounding”. It is compatible with a number of additives which result in the formation of a polymer with versatility & high impact strength.
Two primarily used additives with these resin materials are functional & optical additives.
These additives include:
- Heat stabilizers- They are required to prevent decomposition of material by heat and shear during the production process of goods. These additives help to enhance the resistance towards daylight, weathering & heat aging.
- Lubricants- These additives help to reduce the friction between material & their processing equipment. The internal lubricants focus on the granules of the resin.
- Plasticizers- They help the material to become more flexible, resilient and add to its ease of handling. The most common plasticizers used with the polymer are phthalates which are divided into two different groups- Low & High Phthalates.
Low Phthalates are basically low molecular weight like DEHP, DBP, DIBP and others were as high phthalates are with high molecular weight like DINP, DIDP, DIUP, and others. A large number of plastic polymer products used in daily lives contains these phthalates like medical devices, footwear, electric cables, stationery, toys etc.
These additives include processing aids, mineral fillers, nitrile rubbers, flame retardants, blowing agents, pigments, and colorants.
They are not mainly used to improve basic properties of the material instead they focus on enhancing the other kind of properties as desired by the product being produced.
The global market for stabilizers is estimated to be more than 2.25 bn in 2016 and will reach US$ 2.6bn by 2020. It is an evolving market with a variety of applications for different kind of stabilizers in different uses.
- Based on materials the market is divided into tin, calcium, lead and liquid stabilizers.
- Based on the application they are divided into pipes and fittings, window profiles, rigid and semi-rigid films, flexible PVC, wire & cables, medical appliances, consumer goods and coatings & flooring.
- Based on geography market is segmented into four major regions which are North America, Europe, Asia-pacific and Rest of the World.
- Growing usage in developing countries like China & India for different kind of end-segment products.
- Growing Construction and piping industry.
- Rapidly increasing the rate of urbanization and population.
- Market shift towards vinyl free alternatives
- Decomposition of this material releases harmful hydrochloric acid.
- In some countries like Europe, PVC lead stabilizers are banned along with other heavy metals.
Asian- Pacific regions are the highest consumers of these stabilizers comprising of more than half of the share in global market. Different type of uses of these materials in this region has resulted in increased demand for the product.
China is the leading producer in terms of value and volume both among all other countries of Asian-Pacific regions across the globe. This is because of the rise in construction industries in this country as these stabilizers are largely used in pipes & fittings, windows & semi-rigid films.
Key players of these materials in the global market include Pau Tai Industrial Corporation (Taiwan), AkzoNobel N.V. (Netherlands), BASF SE (Germany), Baerlocher GmbH (Germany), Clariant AG (Switzerland), Arkema SA (France) and Songwon Industrial Co. Ltd. (South Korea).
It is an ideal choice for producing a variety of daily use goods due to its good impact strength and weatherproof quality.
It is the most preferred material for manufacturers due to following reasons
- It has a number of approvals to be used for consumable and medical products (especially European countries).
- They are long lasting, tough and offer ease of processing to manufacturers.
- These polymers consume less amount of energy during the production process as compared to their competition plastics.
- It has smaller carbon footprint which means the carbon dioxide impact of these materials is less than other resins.
- They offer a high amount of clarity and excellent organoleptic properties which make them an ideal choice for packaging goods (especially consumables).
- Even the windows made from these materials are energy efficient and help to cut energy bills.
- Lastly, they are fully recyclable which helps to maintain environmental balance.
It is a versatile form of polymer applicable for a variety of end segment industries due to its suiting physical, chemical and mechanical properties. The uses of this material vary from windows, roofs, blood storage and automotive interiors to synthetic and coated fabrics.
Some of the prominent uses of these plastic polymers in products of different end segment industries are:
Nowadays it is most commonly used the material in the commonly used material in construction sector because of its low production cost, ease of processing & is also lightweight. It is widely used as a replacement for metal in a number of construction activities to avid corrosion and keeps the maintenance cost low.
Properties of this material like strength, durability, lightweight, resistance and availability at an economical price make it an ideal choice in the construction sector to be used as windows, doors, pipes, and others.
PVC Pipes & Fittings -The most commonly used pipes and fittings globally for sewage, industries, housing and drinking water supply are polyvinyl chloride pipe. Half of the pipes produced are consumed by municipal & industrial.
These pipes are fused together with various solvents in a fusion process which help to create permanent joints to avoid any kind of leakages.
Examples of other construction products produced from these plastic forms-
- Windows and doors
- Cables and ducts
- power, telecom, and data wiring
- Wall coverings
- Rainwater, soil and waste systems etc.
Nowadays these resins are commonly used as the insulation on electric cables. It was first used in cables as a replacement of rubber during The Second World War and is being still used due to its flexibility, flame retardation, ease of handling & installation.
The cables made from these materials do not crack easily and are used in a wide range varying from telecommunications to electric blankets.
It is being used in a number of life-saving product for more than half a century. These materials are widely used in surgeries, pharmaceuticals, drug delivery devices and packaging due to its suitable properties and high performance.
Examples of products used in healthcare industry produced using these plastic polymers:
- Artificial skin for burn treatment
- Blood vessels of artificial kidneys
- Catheters & cannulae
- Blood bags & containers
- Blood and plasma transfusion sets
- Surgical gloves, mattress, and bedding covers
- Inflatable splints
- Blister & dosage packs for medicines etc.
They are also applicable to be used in a number of automotive parts & interiors as they have high-performance qualities and prove to be a cost-effective form of raw material for automotive industry.
Some of the examples of automotive products manufacture by these resins are:
- Instrument panels
- Interior doors & pockets
- Sun Visors
- Seat Coverings
- Mud Flaps
- Sports bags
- Underbody coatings
- Anti-stone damage protection
- Auto Harness wiring etc.
As it is a versatile plastic polymer with unique properties it even has its applications associated with sports in different forms. It is used on a large scale in construction sports venues. It includes seating, roofing, flooring also piping and electric wiring in stadiums.
Apart from construction activities associated with sports, it is also used in clothes and shoes of athletes also in the equipment used in different sports.
Signs and Displays
They are used in signs & display boards used highly for advertising purpose globally. They are produced in form of flat sheets with different varieties of thicknesses and colors according to the demand.
These sheets & films are used for producing commercial signage boards and other products including car body stripes or stickers etc.
These plastic resins have also made their ways in clothing & fabrics industry as they are water resistant, durable and wrinkle-free materials.
They are used in coats, jackets, shoes, aprons, skiing equipment and clothes. It is also being used widely to create artificial leather materials as it is less expensive than original leather or latex.
Other applications include home playgrounds, foam, toys, greenhouses, tarpaulins and other types of interior claddings.
It is even used in a number of musical instruments as it is cheaper than metal and has better performance results.
This resin material is a perfect mix of desired properties for different kind of plastic products. This material number of benefits to manufacturers which include:
- It is Biocompatible
- Offers clarity & transparency
- Low thermal conductivity
- Little or no maintenance is requires
- Cheap & readily available
- Good resistance.
Though it offers a number of benefits but also has some limitation involved with it which is:
- It has poor heat stability and stabilizers are needed to maintain stability.
- In its production process, it releases some harmful fumes and is also subjected to fire.
These plastic polymers can result in health hazard especially when they are burnt, as they emit hydrogen chloride fumes which are harmful.
Fumes are also released during the melting process of material like at the time of prototyping or manufacturing processes (3D printing, CNC machining and also injection molding etc)
As a precaution, material safety data sheets are used for different kind of hydrocarbon gases like chlorobenzene and others.
Sustainable development means the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising for the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
This is one of the major plastic polymer grades which are working toward sustainable development on a very large scale. It offers a balanced kind of sustainability in all aspects of the environment which include:
It is being used and manufactured globally on a very large scale, as a result, requires a huge amount of human force. This material is proving employment to a number of people and help in maintaining economic sustainability.
Manufacturing companies are providing the safe working environment, good quality homes, energy efficient windows & safe drinking water to fulfill their social responsibility towards employees.
Industries producing these materials have shifted their focus towards maintaining environmental stability by reducing pressure on scarce resources. They are trying to recycle maximum amount of products produced to achieve balance in the environment.
The structure and composition of the material allow itself to be recycled mechanically and produce good quality products. They offer ease of recycling as they break down at low temperature and avoid degradation in the recycling process.
Process involved in recycling
- Manual sorting is done and unwanted materials are separated.
- Then plastics are cleaned to remove remaining dirt or liquid so that contamination is avoided.
- Plastic is even sorted by their colors to achieve good quality recycled form.
- Further, these used plastics are shredded into flakes and again washed
- Lastly, the shredded form of plastic is melted into granules or pellets to be reused.
Environmental Benefits of Recycling
In last two decades, it has gained its importance as the most versatile plastic polymer being used on a very large scale for a variety of products.
Recycling of these polymers can help to reduce dependence on the number of natural resources including oil and gases. It will also help to reduce landfill waste and release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
It can be recycled into film sheets, fibers, strapping, flower pots, gardening equipment, toys, packaging material, carry bags, containers & bottles and many other products.
Examples of schemes associated with recycling of PVC
Some of the big brands involved in the recycling process of this material are:
The Recovinyl Scheme is providing financial assistance for the collection of polyvinyl chloride waste material from different sectors for recycling.
The Recofloor Scheme, which is managed by The Axion Consulting Ltd. Group, is providing a mechanism for collecting waste vinyl flooring and recycling it. The recycled flooring can be again used as new flooring.
The RecoMed Scheme is a kind of PVC take-back scheme which is at present available at seven NHS hospitals of Britain. It involves the collection of used plastic medical devices (bags, tubes, masks etc) for recycling.
Quantity of PVC recycled by different projects (In 2016)
There is a number of schemes for recycling of this plastic material to maintain sustainability and balance in production and consumption of this material.
In the year 2016 scheme named EPCoat recycled the maximum amount of material produced. It recycled up to 8,187 million tons of material which was followed by EPFLOOR with recycling of 2,811 million tons of plastic.
Other schemes include EPPA (256.6 mt), Recovinyl (127.21 mt), ESWA-POOFCOLLECT (91.18 mt), TEPPFA (57 mt) and EPRA (24 mt).
Initiatives taken in the recycling of plastic material is appreciable and very important to maintain environmental balance.