Vinyl disposal charges
The third charge leveled by vinyl’s critics is the material’s entry into the waste stream (and subsequent ‘decomposition’) yields dioxin emissions and leached toxic chemicals into an ecosystem’s groundwater.
However, as noted previously, PVC does not emit dioxin unless burned at low temperatures. Additionally, when burned at high temperatures in properly certified incinerators, vinyl combustion no longer produces dioxin.13
Thus, vinyl in the waste stream is only a concern when the facility lacks proper fire controls or adequate incineration processes. (As an aside, since vinyl lasts longer than many alternative materials, it tends to enter the waste stream at a lesser rate than other products.)
As for the notion vinyl ‘decomposes’ in the waste stream, recent claims of leached vinyl chloride into landfills have proven this false.
In one case, the California Integrated Waste Management Board found the probable cause of such chemicals in the ecosystem to be “microbial action on chlorinated solvents” such as those found in household cleansers.14
Indeed, some waste management facilities go so far as to line their landfills with vinyl to prevent the contamination of the local ecosystem and groundwater by their refuse.15
Green virtues of vinyl
In many ways, vinyl may be better for the environment than some of the building products widely touted as “Green-preferred.”