Together towards higher sustainability ambitions

The 12th VinylPlus Sustainability Forum (VSF2024) which took place on 23 May 2024 reaffirmed that by sharing common objectives for innovation, industry transformation, competitiveness and sustainability, policymakers and industry can achieve faster action and positive change at EU and global level.
Copyright: VinylPlus

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

Under the theme ‘Together Towards Higher Ambitions’, the VSF2024 took place in Cologne, Germany, on 23 May 2024. 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. It voiced the awareness of the need to work together towards common objectives, not only along the PVC supply chain, but by actively collaborating with Member States and European institutions, with the academic world and with other stakeholders and industrial sectors. This awareness is increasingly shared, and initiatives such as the future EU industrial development strategy, which urges a deep systemic transformation oriented towards resilience, whilst enabling and accelerating the transition towards higher sustainability ambitions in Europe and globally, can help enhance industry action for sustainability.

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

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

Introducing the key 2023 achievements – reported in the VinylPlus 2024 Progress Report – Dr Karl-Martin Schellerer, Chairman of VinylPlus, underlined how 2023 was a very demanding year for VinylPlus. The PVC industry continued to face unprecedented regulatory and macro-economic challenges, and this had of course an impact also on PVC recycling and demand for recyclates. In 2023, in spite of a significant drop in PVC demand, 737,645 tonnes of PVC waste were recycled within the VinylPlus framework, only a slight decrease compared to the previous year. Yet at the same time, the share of recycled and registered post-consumer and pre-consumer waste remained stable. “Nevertheless, VinylPlus intends to remain a frontrunner in the circular economy, continuing to boost recycling and ensuring the safe and sustainable use of recyclates. Recovinyl® has played a leading role in founding PolyREC® and its common data collection system – RecoTrace® – which is now a blueprint for many other sectors. I would also like to underline our commitment towards carbon neutrality and the reduction of our environmental footprint, as well as our continuous investigation of and support to innovative recycling technologies. In addition, our VinylPlus® Product Label obtained the European-level accreditation, and several VinylPlus partners have committed to obtain the VinylPlus® Supplier Certificates”.

Reflecting on the first session “Towards Meeting EU and Global Ambitions”, Charlotte Röber commented that – “A frank dialogue like this demonstrates how important it is to continue drawing inspiration from different experiences and incorporating different perspectives and points of view. For over 20 years, VinylPlus has been a frontrunner focussing on sustainability and the circular economy. But to do this, it is essential to work together, as a united value chain certainly, but also continuing to work closely with policymakers, other industries and academic partners. At a European level, we have recently demonstrated our commitment through the active and important contribution we gave to ECHA for the preparation of its investigation report on PVC and PVC additives. At a global level, we are proactively contributing to the discussions on how to eliminate plastics pollution worldwide through science-based policies, together with other regional PVC and plastics associations”.

Research and innovation are a core part of VinylPlus efforts towards advancing circularity ambitions. During the VSF2024, discussions in the second session focused on the potential for future PVC recycling and addressing possible existing data gaps to enhance the accuracy of the projections. The event also showcased state-of-the-art developments for recycling large untapped 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 depolymerisation and dechlorination technology.

The third session analysed how the PVC industry can further advance towards carbon neutrality and the minimisation of its environmental footprint, with the contributions of sustainability experts who presented examples of concrete initiatives aimed at achieving ambitious decarbonisation targets and transforming waste into quality resources.

The day closed with the VinylPlus Sustainability Certification Award Ceremony which highlighted the PVC value chain’s contribution to sustainable development through certified and traceable products. It celebrated the VinylPlus partner companies that were awarded the VinylPlus® Product Label – for PVC converters, and the VinylPlus® Supplier Certificate – for PVC additives producers and compounders, in 2023, namely: Asua, Eurocompound, Finstral, Internorm and Vinilchimica.

Closing the forum, Dr Karl-Martin Schellerer, 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 VinylPlus 2030 targets. We are ready to continue working collaboratively, transparently and constructively with regulators, in line with a science-based and evidence-based approach. To do this work effectively, industry needs a level playing field, which is why we call for a comprehensive action plan to make competitiveness a strategic priority in Europe”.


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