Setting the standard for best practice PVC
Interface Products Meet the Green Star PVC Best Practice Guidelines
From being hailed as a post-World War II miracle material to being dubbed "The Poison Plastic" by Greenpeace in the 1980s, the perception of PVC plastic has shifted through the decades. In 2006, the Living Building Challenge added PVC to its Red List. Despite these efforts, PVC remains the third most used plastic in the world and is a mainstay of the building products industry. In part due to NGO criticism, much has changed in PVC production and management over the years, creating a need to distinguish between different practices used to make the PVC in today's products.
Concerns about the environmental and health impacts of PVC building products led to the development of the PVC Best Practice Guidelines by the Green Building Council of Australia (the local equivalent of the US Green Building Council) under their Green Star program (Australia’s LEED). The program “assesses the sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings, fitouts and communities”. A credit can be earned within Green Star when the PVC products used meet the Best Practice Guidelines.
GBCA did an extensive review of all concerns around PVC as identified by a wide group of stakeholders, including NGOs. The guidance addresses concerns about chlorine manufacture, vinyl chloride monomer and ethylene dichloride, dioxin emissions in PVC production, additives (lead, cadmium, tin, and phthalates), accidental building fires, end of life product recycling and waste in landfills.
Originally published in 2010, the guidelines were updated in 2013 to include more details on vinyl chloride monomers (VCM) emission benchmarks. They cover the full product life cycle, including the production of upstream materials, the formulation of PVC into vinyl products, and end of life management.
It’s important to note that Green Star doesn’t certify PVC products to the Best Practice Guidelines, but individual facilities may be audited for compliance. Like LEED, Green Star allows products that meet the guidelines to contribute to a credit. Interface LVT and Interface GlasBac® and GlasBacRE carpet backings all meet the Green Star Best Practice Guidelines.
Of course, no material is without its trade-offs, and meeting the Green Star guidelines does not mean PVC is 100% sustainable. Despite efforts like Red Lists, PVC use continues to grow. In flooring, this has manifested in the explosive growth of LVT. We took the unusual step of applying an Australian standard to our global supply chain because it is the only independent, comprehensive standard for best practice PVC that exists in the world today, and we encourage others to do the same.
As we continue the push toward using only recycled or bio-based inputs, we always strive to ensure that today’s materials and practices are held to the highest standards available.