PVC often comes up in discussions of sustainability -- most often the context is looking for a replacement material. Cases in point: the debate over PVC in green buildings ("Battle over vinyl spawns building coalition"), and the medical market ("Kaiser Permanente pulls plug on PVC bags"). Greenbiz.com today has an interesting case study on a company that dealt first-hand with PVC's role in sustainable products, and it's worth a look. The company is having success without resorting to abandoning PVC completely. The story, "Plastic icebergs: Navigating the PVC conundrum," is about Interface Inc., an Atlanta-based company that makes modular carpet. The post, by Mikhail Davis, the company's manager of strategic sustainability, and Lindsay James , its director of strategic sustainability. The describe how the company evaluated carpet backing materials and determined that PVC was a sustainable choice. "PVC ... is not toxic or hazardous in our factory or in our product, and we do not use toxic or heavy-metal additives. In contrast, our polyurethane carpet backing (a PVC-free, non-recyclable alternative) raised concerns because its manufacturing process requires us to store and react several regulated chemicals in the factory," they wrote. But after spending time and effort unsuccessfully trying to convince customers that the facts were on PVC's side, they decided to change strategies around 2008. The company decided to phase out its use of virgin PVC by 2020, but to continue to use recycled PVC. Interface found that customers responded well to the change. "This is certainly a more complicated approach than announcing a new 'PVC-free' product, and for years we felt our story was falling on deaf ears. But as we began to listen more to our stakeholders, they responded positively. "This, combined with our shift to transparently sharing our ingredients and strategies, has begun to rebuild our relationships with those we had alienated," they wrote.
How does PVC fit with sustainability?
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