Together towards higher sustainability ambitions

Copyright: VinylPlus

Attendees debated key topics such as life cycle assessments, whole life carbon, advanced recycling technologies, industrial transformation and more.

Under the theme ‘Together Towards Higher Ambitions’, the VSF2024 took place on May 23, 2024 in Cologne, Germany. More than 190 delegates from 22 countries attended the event, including representatives from the German federal and state governments, academia, designers and architects. , recyclers and the PVC value chain.

‘Together Towards Higher Ambitions’ was not just a slogan. Awareness was expressed of the need to work together towards common objectives, not only along the PVC supply chain, but by actively working with Member States and European institutions, with academia and with other stakeholders and industrial sectors . This awareness is increasingly shared, and initiatives such as the future EU Industrial Development Strategy, which calls for a deep systemic transformation focused on resilience, while enabling and accelerating the transition to higher sustainability ambitions in Europe and globally, can accelerate the action of help strengthen the industry for sustainability.

“The title of your Forum contains two very important elements: common ground and ambition” – said Mona Neubaur, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy, State of North Rhine-Westphalia – “The challenges facing society and the economy must be addressed jointly. Solutions must be supported by everyone and dialogue on the right track is essential. The current industrial transformation is a task that we must accept and shape together, and we must keep ambitions high because high standards are needed to maintain competitiveness.”

“We must achieve a fundamental transformation of the economy: climate action, circular economy and social justice must be at the heart of our economic activities” – urged Svenja Schulze, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development – ​​“We need the private sector necessary obligations such as the involvement of VinylPlus. Your commitment to a sustainable material, more recycling and less waste is very important. I would like to encourage all of you to continue your efforts systematically throughout your work.”

Introducing the key achievements for 2023 – reported in the VinylPlus 2024 Progress Report – Dr. Karl-Martin Schellerer, Chairman of VinylPlus, how 2023 was a very demanding year for VinylPlus. The PVC industry continued to face unprecedented regulatory and macroeconomic challenges, which naturally also affected PVC recycling and demand for recyclates. In 2023, despite a significant drop in PVC demand, 737,645 tonnes of PVC waste was recycled within the VinylPlus framework, only a slight decrease compared to the previous year. But at the same time, the share of recycled and registered post-consumer and pre-consumer waste remained stable. “Nevertheless, VinylPlus wants to remain a leader in the circular economy, by continuing to encourage recycling and guaranteeing the safe and sustainable use of recyclates. Recovinyl® played a leading role in the creation of PolyREC® and its common data collection system – RecoTrace® – which is now a blueprint for many other industries. I would also like to highlight our commitment to carbon neutrality and reducing our environmental footprint, as well as our continued research into and support of innovative recycling technologies. In addition, our VinylPlus® product label has obtained accreditation at European level and several VinylPlus partners have committed to obtain VinylPlus® supplier certificates.”

Reflecting on the first session “Towards Meeting EU and Global Ambitions”, Charlotte Röber noted: “A frank dialogue like this shows how important it is to continue to draw inspiration from different experiences and integrate different perspectives and points of view. VinylPlus has been a leader in the field of sustainability and the circular economy for more than 20 years. But to do this it is essential to work together, especially as a unified value chain, but also to continue to work closely with policy makers, other industries and academic partners. At European level, we recently demonstrated our commitment through the active and important contribution we made to ECHA in preparing its research report on PVC and PVC additives. At a global level, we are proactively contributing to the discussions on how to eliminate plastic pollution worldwide through science-based policies, together with other regional PVC and plastic associations.”

Research and innovation are a core part of VinylPlus’ efforts to advance its circularity ambitions. At VSF2024, discussions in the second session focused on the potential for future PVC recycling and addressing possible existing data gaps to increase the accuracy of the projections. The event also showcased state-of-the-art developments for recycling large unused waste volumes of non-mechanically recyclable PVC with advanced technologies, such as chlorine recovery in waste-to-energy plants, PVC-compliant pyrolysis and gasification, as well as chemical depolymerization and dechlorination technology.

The third session analyzed how the PVC industry can make further progress towards carbon neutrality and minimizing its environmental footprint, with the contributions of sustainability experts who presented examples of concrete initiatives aimed at achieving ambitious decarbonization targets and converting waste into high-quality resources.

The day concluded with the VinylPlus Sustainability Certification Award Ceremony, highlighting the contribution of the PVC value chain to sustainable development through certified and traceable products. It celebrated the VinylPlus partner companies that received the VinylPlus® Product Label – for PVC processors, and the VinylPlus® Supplier Certificate – for PVC additive manufacturers and compounders in 2023, namely: Asua, Eurocompound, Finstral, Internorm and Vinilchimica.

Dr. Karl-Martin Schellerer closed the forum and concluded: “Today’s discussions confirmed the vitality of our industry and our will to continue contributing to the sustainable transformation of the economy in Europe and globally. Innovation and collaboration remain key to achieving the VinylPlus 2030 goals. We are prepared to continue to work with regulators in a transparent and constructive manner, in line with a science and evidence-based approach. To do this work effectively, the industry needs a level playing field. That is why we call for a comprehensive action plan to make competitiveness a strategic priority in Europe.”