Hi, I’m Polyvinyl Chloride – Plastic #3

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Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or V), also known as plastic #3, is pretty rare when it comes to household plastics. Only 2% of all plastic containers are PVC, despite being accidentally discovered way back in the 1800s.

What is it made of?
PVC is Polyvinyl Chloride – Its molecular formula is (-CH2-CHCl-)n. It’s a tough and strong resin that doesn’t react with other chemicals.

What is it used for?
PVC can be found in signs, cooking oil bottles, electrical wires, window cleaner bottles, toys, shampoo bottles, water pipes, shrink wrap, and fast food containers.

Can it be recycled locally?
No! Unfortunately, plastic #3 cannot be recycled in the Lowcountry. Hopefully this will change soon – we’ve heard rumors and rumblings from both Charleston and Dorchester counties. In the mean time, try to avoid them when you can – and reuse them when you can’t. Feel free to call your local recycling office (links to the right) and let them know you’d like to have PVC recycling.

What does it look like?
PVC is thin, transparent, and light…but also flimsy and non-durable. That’s why you’ll find it in things like blister pack, and throwaway food containers and bags. Here is what I collected over a couple weeks:

Why is this important?
Once plastic is created, it’s going to be around for a long time. I guess the best way to keep PVC out of the landfill (PVC is not recyclable in most areas) is to avoid products using it as packaging. Recycling programs need to be broadened to include all plastic resins so PVC can be reclaimed to make things like cables, decks, panels, and binders. Sounds boring, but hey – reducing our impact in every way possible is the only real path to a sustainable future. We’ve got to use less, and recycle more.

Want to learn more?
As always a random roundup of PVC, and both Wikipedia and Earth Odyssey have good info.

Previously on Go Green:

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