There are significant intrinsic differences between polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polypropylene (PP). Polypropylene is one of the most neutral plastics, containing only two elements: carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). PVC by comparison contains about 30% by weight of the element Chlorine (Cl) in its basic structure. It is well documented that chlorine, like all halogens, is a dangerous substance in the environment.
Lets see how they shape up against each other
Polypropylene v PVC
Round 1 - Exposure To Heat And Fire
Polypropylene is much more tolerant to heat - even under extreme conditions it will only generate carbon dioxide and water.
PVC is intrinsically heat unstable – and if burnt produces toxic by-products such as dioxins, chlorocarbons and hydrochloric acid.
Round 2 - Recyclability
Polypropylene is 100% recyclable – because polypropylene doesn’t have lead or any other heavy metals in the manufacturing process.
PVC is not recyclable to the same extent - firstly because of its intrinsic chemical composition and also because of the additives it contains. PVC is inherently dangerous in its basic form, and it also needs a large amount of lead to stabilise it. Lead is highly toxic both during the life cycle of a product and after its disposal.
Round 3 - Greenhouse Gases and Toxicity
Polypropylene helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – because it’s manufactured from propylene monomer, a relatively safe gas, which is a waste by-product of the petroleum industry. It used to be burned off into the atmosphere contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. As a consequence, the more polypropylene used in products helps in these gas emissions.
PVC is very toxic - because the monomer unit which forms its building blocks is very toxic. Stringent guidelines are in place for its proper handling as it is highly dangerous to transport and store. There have been numerous studies of the negative health effects on workers exposed to PVC monomer.
Polypropylene has proven itself to be better the environment (and as it is more cost effective - better for the bottom line too!)
It’s clear that polypropylene is a safer, non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternative to the obsolescent technologies that gave us plastics such as PVC.