With PVC free print media becoming more common and some clients specifying PVC free, we ask the question “should we be going PVC free with print media?”
Polyvinyl Chloride is a thermoplastic made from 57% chlorine (derived from salt) and 43% carbon (derived from oil/gas via ethylene). Its been used commercially in Europe since the 1930’s and is used across a wide variety of industries including signage and display. It has historically drawn heavy criticism due to much debated environmental concerns including:
1) PVC production involves the creation of toxic chemicals including the release of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere, a known carcinogen
2) When PVC is incinerated it releases its chlorine content and causes the release of dioxins
3) PVC needs additives to make it useable include lead and cadmium as stabilisers and phthalates as softeners
4) PVC does not easily decompose and additives from PVC in landfill can contaminate soil and groundwater
However in recent years the PVC industry has done much to clean up its act including forming VinylPlus, a volutary sustainable development programme for the European PVC industry; it has help increase recycling rates, phase out cadmium stabilisers, decreased lead stabilisers by 50% and set long term sustainability targets.
The print and display industry can do much to help, PVC board, roll, vinyl films and laminate etc are go to products for many of us, to the point where its almost a click whirr response. There are undoubtedly more sustainable and enviromentally friendly print medias available including cardboard, plastics such as polypropylene, composite boards and wood to name a few. There are also more environmentally friendly PVC media options including recycled foam board. If you need more information on sustainable print medias head to the Green Planet section on our website.
PVC free has become a buzzword in our industry which implies environmental consideration and sustainability. Greenwashing with print media is common and questions must sometimes be asked on alternative green print media options. For example PVC free sign films are manufactured using a PVC free, phthalate free process but can use more fossil material, water and aren’t recyclable due to the mix of plastics including the silicon based backing papers. Most medias can claim some element of sustainability whether its because of weight reduction, type of plastic, certification or amount of recycled material, it all depends on your definition of sustainable.
Choosing the right eco print partner to help advise you on the most suitable print media for your project is essential as sustainable print and print media can be an environmental minefield.