It certainly looks as though those groups doing battle with PVC are relentless and very likely misguided.
Vinyl is a very good “backbone” polymer that can be modified with additives to do many things and be a great solution for many of man's sustainable artifacts. It can be plasticized for excellent flexibility, stabilized for great outdoor aging, and made quite formable with low-carbon-footprint processes.
The major end uses for vinyl products are in the building products and infrastructure segments. Pipe, siding, window frames, fence, rail and deck, as well as many others, fall into a class of rigid materials and have unsurpassed sustainability. Numerous liners and other containment films protect our waste ponds and we cannot forget vinyl roofing membranes when sustainability is cited.
Many of these products are still in dignified use after more than a half century, and are now just coming to the point where their service life has ended and they need to be recycled. Recycling involves reprocessing into new articles and avoiding incineration and landfill disposition. It is significant to note that many producers in this country are promoting recycling of old products as they install new ones. That is great for the consumer and is a low-cost addition to the manufacture of newer articles. Europe has practiced this successfully for many years.
Vinyl's reputation, as well as the reputations of other polymer, is being maligned — all because dioxins are generated through combustion (a fact with considerable scientific discord on each side). The thinking is that all vinyl should be ranked with a failing grade. This is a fine example of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and needs to be addressed.
There certainly are applications of vinyl where the product's useable lifetime is short and they end up at the incinerator quickly after disposable end use. However, the majority of vinyl products go on to long sustainable uses and are just now starting to be harvested for reuse into products with many more years of service life.
Every effort should be made toward having these antagonists account for their destructive actions. After all, these actions might well result in creating products with very poor sustainability and no possibility for reuse, and that would be bad for everyone trying desperately to ward off these problems with sustainable products.
Perhaps there should be a classification within vinyl which separates the low-sustainable from the high-sustainable products and to defend each by different arguments. Maybe we should reclassify “sustainable vinyl” as a composite and not use the term “vinyl.”