Friday, March 12, 2010

Plastics #3

The third category in the plastics family is Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, which is a polymerized byproduct of vinyl chloride. A highly durable plastic, it is used extensively in construction materials such as windows, siding, and piping, and is also found in yoga mats, as well as various types of medical equipment. Its composition makes it a cost-effective and long-lasting product, one that will take hundreds of years to break down.

Occasionally PVC is used to make cleaner or detergent bottles or food packaging. However, PVC is not nearly as benign as plastics #1 or #2, nor is it as easy to recycle. Because of the chlorine present in its molecular structure, highly dangerous toxins can be released into the air during its manufacture. Plastics #3 should never be used for cooking or heating food, as the toxins within are released when the plastic is heated or burned. Some studies have suggested the dreaded chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) may be present in plastics #3 as well, which is suspected of affecting human growth and reproductive hormones when leached into food or drinking water.

Of the municipalities that do accept PVC packaging for recycling (and yes, Chicago does!), it is recycled into plastic lumber and flooring, cables, speed bumps, and mats.

No comments: