Cleveland — PVC compounders are hoping for a rebound in building and construction while looking to educate more people about the benefits of their material.
"Higher interest rates have raised housing prices and led to fewer builds," Lou Brandewiede said Nov. 16 at AMI World Plastics Expos in Cleveland.
Brandewiede — rigid PVC technology director with Aurora Plastics in Streetsboro, Ohio — was one of four PVC compounding executives on a panel at the event.
"During COVID, we were busy making and filling orders," he added. "We did very little R&D. Now, we can plant seeds for better times. We can look at other markets where PVC can have a place."
PVC compounders also can benefit from an ending of delays in infrastructure investment, as well as from more standardization in regulatory requirements, according to Wendy Herbst, Chief Commercial Officer with Geon Performance Solutions in Westlake, Ohio.
"We want to solve problems for our customers by adding strength and durability to vinyl goods," she said.
Suppliers also need to consider ways to lower their carbon footprint by using recycled content or biomaterials, said Richard Krock, principal with VyChlor Advisors in Westlake. "Regulations are getting tighter, and that will affect makers of PVC and other resins," he said.
Recycled content is drawing interest from PVC compounders, but collection and availability of that material remain a challenge. "We need to get [PVC products] back from consumers," said Tribu Persaud, director with Norwich Plastics in Cambridge, Ontario. "If we can get it back, we can recycle it and do something with it."
Herbst added that one of the challenges in recycling PVC is "finding a is consistent and reliable source so you know what's in the material." Recycling also "needs a buy-in from the industry" to prevent items from going to landfills, Brandewiede said. Incorporating more recycled content "can position [PVC compounders] in a better way to meet the needs of the architectural community," according to Krock.
Education also remains important, as PVC compounders, along with other plastics firms, struggle against the often-negative public image of plastics. "We do a great job talking about the industry to each other, but not a great job in talking to moms and children," Persaud said.
Brandewiede said he's gone to local grade schools and high schools on their science days to talk about the benefits of PVC. Herbst added that changing the image of PVC and other plastics "comes down to education."
"We need to expose people to the industry to get them excited," she said. "And we need to be good stewards in the communities where we operate."