A German chemist Eugene Baumann invented Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) in 1872. Then, Waldo Semon came along in 1926 and modified the material to suit multiple purposes. Until Waldo Semon’s innovations, PVC did not have much use, much less an industry.
Today, PVC is the third most-produced plastic in the world. PVC started as a suitable replacement material to make shoe heels and golf balls. Today, there is an endless list of products made of PVC, for example, pipes, wire encasings, window fixtures, floor tiles, wallpapers, shower curtains, raincoats, appliances, etc. The PVC market trends over the years show how an industry catering to a meager 24 million tons of demand for PVC in 2000 went on to cater to a demand of 40 million tons on an average in 2018.
Currently, the PVC industry is growing at a CAGR of 4.7% and is expected to be worth $46.6 billion by 2022. China produces the highest amount of PVC in the world, even as many of its plants have been shut down due to environmental concerns and significant production scaling issues.
One might wonder how a non-consequential plastic variant became so essential and is sustaining its position too. PVC’s advent can safely be credited to the following events occurring over the last decade:
Invention and mass production of plasticizers
Plasticizers make PVC useful for a plethora of applications. Raw PVC is mixed with plasticizers to create various types of PVC plastics. Each plasticizer gives PVC a specific property which is pivotal for PVC’s use in making a particular product. Searose flexible hose supplies tell us that by adding diisononyl phthalate creates flexible PVC raisins which are highly amenable and are used in producing wire encasings, PVC ropes, inflatable swimming pools, inflatable couches, flexible pipes and hoses for washing machines, garden hoses, fire hoses, etc.
Increasing the use of PVC in making products
Day-to-day items and industry-grade products are increasingly being made from PVC due to the remarkable improvement in PVC’s quality and properties over the years. Along with industrial applications, PVC is used in the production of commonplace items like shower curtains, floor tiles, roofing frames, raincoats, kitchen utensils, window frames, fabrics, coverage sheets, etc.
Significant increase in construction activities
Across the world, more specifically in the developing countries of Asia-Pacific, North America, and Western Europe, construction activities have increased. Developing countries like China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, etc. experienced an urgent need to provide suitable infrastructure and facilities to keep pace with the rate of development and economic growth. As a result, construction projects in both commercial and residential space shot up, which inherently gave a push to PVC demand in these regions. PVC products are used in almost every stage of construction (pipes, window fixtures, roofing solutions, floor tiles) so much so that the construction sector is the biggest consumer of PVC products.
PVC is economical, durable, and lightweight
PVC is more economical, durable, and lightweight as compared to traditional or conventional materials used for the production of items that are now made of PVC. For example, iron pipes were widely used in sewage management systems. However, iron pipes get corroded need to be replaced every 20 to 25 years. Whereas, buried PVC pipes have a lifespan of 100 years and are not prone to corrosion even in the presence of chemicals in sewage.
PVC in Mining
PVC products are heat resistant, stress-resistant, as well as lightweight when prepared with the right plasticizer, this attribute makes PVC products highly suitable for the mining operations and industry. Mining operations are conducted in high-temperature environments, and the mining equipment is required to be heat resistant, durable, stress-resistant, and chemical and corrosion resistant, economical, and as lightweight as possible without compromising on strength. PVC products fit the bill as they are just as strong as alternative products while being significantly economical and lightweight.
Environmental Concerns: Addressed
In the 1970s, the PVC industry underwent a set back due to widespread environmental concerns. PVC products then were produced and discarded in a way that was unsustainable and harmful to the environment. Further, there were concerns that upon exposure to heat PVC pipes released carcinogens. PVC pipes were widely being used for supplying drinking water at the time, and the discovery that PVC pipes released carcinogens in water caused a significant reduction in PVC pipes’ use all over.
However, since then, better plasticizers have been identified and the PVC quality has been refined. The production processes have also been significantly fine-tuned, and use of PVC in certain areas like water supply, water transportation, medical facilities, has either been banned entirely or has been put under stringent oversight and regulations by phasing out the cadmium stabilizers, making compliance to EVCM industry charter mandatory, and replacing lead stabilizers, among others. These events helped alleviate the concerns around PVC products.
While the PVC industry is experiencing an oversupply as of now, the upcoming construction spree across the globe will more than compensate for it. The prices of PVC (both raw products and finished products) experienced a reduction between 2017 and the second quarter of 2019, but the market is gradually recovering. However, the PVC industry has still maintained a robust CAGR (4.7%) and is expected to reach the projected values by 2022. Against all the odds, the PVC industry is expected to thrive and keep gaining ground in the coming decade.