WHAT IS PVC?

ABOUT POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC)

PVC or vinyl is one of oldest thermoplastic polymers in the world and most widely used and thoroughly tested plastics in the world. During the manufacturing process, chlorine is obtained from ordinary salt and is chemically combined with ethylene, which is derived from coal in South Africa. There are three forms of PVC, namely rigid (PVC-U), flexible (PVC-U) and liquid. The rigid and flexible variants are by far the most common form and have various applications in a number of industries.

Applications range long-life applications such as water pipes, window and door frames, flooring, shoes and fashion accessories, to lifesaving medical devices and packaging:

  • Rigid PVC is used to manufacture irrigation pipes, conduit, gutters, pharmaceutical bottles and fridge magnets.

  • Flexible PVC is used to produce drip bags, electrical insulation, vehicle dashboard skins, gumboots, safety gloves, garden hoses and packaging films.

The benefits of using PVC

PVC is always compounded with additives to give it a range of properties, such as rigidity, flexibility, fire resistance and liquidity. Vinyls are popular because of their numerous advantageous properties:

  • PVC has excellent resistance to wear and tear – making it ideal for products that need to withstand hard usage over many years.

  • It is lightweight, cost-effective and requires little energy to manufacture.

  • This plastic is inherently flame-resistant and is impermeable to liquids.

  • Around 80% of vinyl is used for products that last for between 15 and 100 years. This long life means vinyl is one of the smallest pollutants with small volumes found in landfill and virtually none in waterways or the marine environment.

  • Studies show that vinyl does not pollute soil and groundwater and does not contribute to toxic leachate in landfill because it doesn’t degrade in landfill.

PVC markets in South Africa

  • Demand for PVC is closely aligned to economic performance and the construction industry. With the Covid-19 pandemic effects in 2020, we saw a 20% decline in construction activity from the previous year.

  • South Africa’s GDP growth rates declined by 7% in 2020, but grew by 4.9% in 2021 with construction at -2.2% growth.

  • Potential uplift on PVC demand should government execute on infrastructure build programme

  • Positive Southern African market growth over recent years and expectations looking forward, indicates that demand outpaces local PVC supply.

Market applications of PVC

Click on each photograph below for more information about the various market applications and uses of PVC.

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