Environmental Considerations

Vinyl Recycling Databases

The Vinyl Institute website offers two comprehensive databases about vinyl and recycling.

  • Click here for the database of vinyl recycling companies.
  • Click here for the database of manufacturers of recycled vinyl products.

Environmental Considerations

Section Contents:

Recyclability and disposal issues
Energy efficiency
Indoor air quality

Recyclability and disposal issues. Vinyl wallcoverings have a long useful life. As such, they compose a very small fraction of the materials that are disposed in landfills each year. In addition, most vinyl wallcovering manufacturers are actively recycling to minimize waste related to the manufacture of the product. Due to conditions in landfills, studies have shown that most materials - including wallpapers - do not biodegrade when discarded. Although the conventional assumption is that biodegradability in a landfill is an environmental benefit, it actually could pose a threat to the environment. When materials biodegrade, they can release chemicals into the landfill that potentially can reach the groundwater. Vinyl is so stable in landfills that vinyl membranes have been used as landfill liners.

Energy efficiency. Compared to other plastics, the production of vinyl requires far less of the world's limited fossil fuel resources. The energy required to manufacture vinyl wallcoverings is only half as much as the amount needed to produce the same amount of paper wallcoverings.

Indoor air quality. Vinyl wallcoverings have a relatively low potential for odors or emissions and have not been identified as a source of "sick building syndrome." In fact, studies show considerably higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paint than from vinyl wallcoverings. Painting a room with oil- and/or solvent-based paints can result in emissions of approximately nine times the amount of VOCs released by vinyl wallcoverings that incorporate water-based adhesives and inks. Tests have shown that the initial odor in vinyl wallcoverings, attributed to stabilizers and plasticizers used in the manufacturing process, will dissipate much faster than the odors of most paints.

Other. The wallcovering industry has been proactive in the reduction and elimination of heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury, previously used as pigments, stabilizers and biocides. (See previous section, "Raw Materials" for definitions.)