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Is It Good For PVC To Degrade In A Landfill?

DN Staff

February 11, 2010

2 Min Read
Is It Good For PVC To Degrade In A Landfill?

Yes, according to a new company in Randolph, NJ called BIOtech Products that will receive an award for environmental stewardship from the Society of Plastics Engineers March 9 in Florida.  BIOtech has invented an additive that will cause PVC, and possibly other plastics, to break down in a biologically active landfill.

The company states on its Web site: “For many years it has been desired to make plastic materials from polymers such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinyl acetate (PVAc), and olefin polymers (EPDM) which are either biodegradable by microorganisms or environmentally degradable such as in a landfill. In spite of considerable efforts, landfills are becoming inundated with plastic materials, and articles made therefrom, that will not degrade perhaps for centuries. This is especially true for vinyl halide and olefin polymer materials such as PVC and EPDM that are considered non-biodegradable, that is, they persist in landfills under anaerobic conditions indefinitely without noticeable decomposition. This factor limits the acceptance of PVC and polyolefins in many products where their useful balance of properties and low cost would be attractive.”

BIOtech was awarded a patent for a chemical compound consisting of an organotitanate or zirconate compound and an organotin compound that promotes the breakdown of PVC after the completion of its useful life. Loadings in the polymer range from one to ten parts per hundred.

The compositions of the invention are compostable, which means that the compounded product undergoes chemical, physical, thermal and/or biological degradation, making it physically indistinguishable from finished compost (humus) and which ultimately biodegrades to carbon dioxide, water and biomass in the environment like other known compostable matter such as paper and yard waste.

In a well-managed landfill, methane is captured and used as a fuel source. The chlorine content of BIOflex is partly consumed and partly converted to soluble chloride. BIOtech says soluble chloride has value as fertilizer since it makes soil nitrogen more rapidly available to plants. The company says that vegetables grown in compost made from its landfilled material sprout more rapidly than in controlled specimens.

I’m not sure I’m buying.

In the first place, I don’t think landfills are a good solution to the global solid waste crisis. And those landfills that are still in operation are usually designed to be biologically inert to prevent leaching of toxic materials into water supplies.  What if a particular PVC article contained a material not good for the environment?

Solid waste is not my area of expertise. Maybe readers could jump in here and tell us if this makes any sense to them.

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