PVC and The Anti-PVC Movement

By: Scott Bieber, Independent Sales Representative for Duro-Last® Roofing, Inc.

There is an anti-plastics movement which comes and goes in intensity, and has an agenda seemingly focused on finding products to demonize. PVC is often the target.

Earlier this year, the Duro-Last® roofing system was installed on a large project in the Pacific Northwest. However, the owners of the facility requested that we not promote our involvement with this project, apparently concerned that being associated with a PVC roofing membrane will lessen their environmental standing in the public’s eye.

Which opens the door to an educational opportunity.

With respect to roofing systems, the question we have is: “If not PVC, then what?” That’s where the anti-PVC arguments start to break down.

Believe it or not, many activists think we should go back to thatched roofs. Natural, of course, but safe? We would have an explosion in mold, bacteria, insects, rodents, etc. To prevent or get rid of these problems, we’d have to use poisons or other chemicals and there would be another outcry. Let’s not even talk about fire safety.

Other natural products, those made from clay for example, actually are more environmentally damaging when you look at their impact during the mining process and the amount of energy (fossil fuels) required to bring such heavy products to market.

PVC is among the most recyclable materials in the marketplace – just one of the attributes that make it a “green” product. Duro-Last recycles virtually all of its own manufacturing waste. On job sites, it is safer for contractors to handle than other roofing materials that require VOC adhesives, hot tar (which has a very high carbon content, by the way), etc. Unlike other systems, PVC roofs can be recycled at the end of their service lives and Duro-Last has a program in place to do just that.

Eliminating PVC products in hospitals would require other materials that are more prone to bacteria growth. That’s why PVC has been so widely used in blood bags and hospital mattresses – it’s easiest to keep clean.

A recent report issued by the US Green Building Council’s Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) found (after a five year study) that PVC is as benign as other construction products, and in some cases is the best environmental option. A fair evaluation looks at the whole, long-term picture to determine whether the net result of using the product is positive or negative.

The building owners for the roofing project noted above made the right choice with respect to providing long-term watertight protection for their facility. We are confident they made the right environmental choice as well.