PET plastic cards VS PVC Plastic cards
A Comparison of the two eco profiles, based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) from cradle to grave, the complete life cycle (LC) can be divided into three main segments:
1. Production Phase
The important criterion to characterize this phase is primary energy demand. According to BUWAL SRU 250 «Life Cycle Inventories for Packagings» and SRU 300 «Evaluation of Life Cycle inventories for Packagings», worldwide recognized as the most comprehensive and up-to-date LCA data collections and assessment methodologies, the primary energy demand is as follows:
PET 83.8 MJ/kg (margins: 66 ~ 98 MJ/kg)
PVC 66.8 MJ/kg (margins: 48 ~ 89 MJ/kg)
Compared to PET plastic card, production of PVC plastic card demands 20% less primary energy. Furthermore, PVC is only partially made from fossil resources, the rest being inorganic. However, this latter is chlorine, which is very controversially discussed; not only by Greenpeace, WWF and similar ecology-oriented Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), but also by clearly industry-oriented groups and think tanks.
Conclusion regarding an intermediate ranking in the production phase:
1st PVC plastic card
2nd PET plastic card
2. Use Phase
The important criterion to characterize this phase is convenience. And in this respect, both materials are equally well suited to fulfill all the convenience demands.
However, A short use phase covering only a small time span favours materials with a short ecological payback period like PET plastic card. This is, among others, a reason why such materials are to be preferred to consumer product applications; whereas PVC plastic card, requiring a longer ecological payback period, is better suited for long-term applications typically found in investment goods.
Conclusion regarding an intermediate ranking in the use phase :
1st PET plastic card
2nd PVC plastic card
3. Disposal Phase
The important criterion to characterize this phase is environmentally sound disposal processing. In most OECD countries – already common in the Western European countries – thermal processing through incineration is primordial disposal process.
The three main purpose are : first to convert the reactive municipal waste into harmless inert materials; second, to achieve volume reduction; third, to safe primary.
Energy carries (e.g. fuels) used for heat production through replacing them by burning waste and using the produced heat, thus protecting fossil resources.
Therefore, the ecological behavior of PET plastic card and PVC plastic card during incineration is the question to be regarded. Burning PET in Municipal Solid Waste Incineration (MSWI) plants does not cause any ecological problems.
Not so with PVC plastic card : In most cases, burning PVC in MSWI plants may produce and release dioxins. And these substances are very toxic, thus requiring a very sophisticated handling. For good reasons, in Western European countries as well as in most civil societies, dioxins are politically not accepted and socially completely refused. Thus, contributing to production and release of dioxins is a very significant and disadvantage of PVC.
Furthermore, burning PVC plastic card produces hydrochloric acid (HCl), of course. HCl is loss toxic than dioxins. Depending on the MSWI plants pollution abatement equipment, HCI may afterwards yet be released, thus contribute to the generation of acid rain which is a serious ecological concern.
The material-based recycling is an alternative, and here both polymers enable technically equally good recycling options. However, the market capacity to absorb the mass of goods made of so-called secondary raw materials(e.g. recycled material) is rather limited for products made of recycled PVC plastic card, and is broader for products made of recycled PET plastic card.
This reason is the difference in market capacity for investment and for consumer good:
PVC is more suitable for long-life products (because only here PVC can reasonably carry its environmental burden over time).
PET plastic card is more suitable for short-life products.
Conclusion regarding an intermediate ranking in the disposal phase :
1st PET with many pros
2nd PVC with many cons
Combining the three intermediate rankings to a final ranking by assessing their pros and cons gives the following result :
1st PET plastic card
2nd PVC plastic card
Taking LCA as a powerful tool, PVC plastic card shows more dark than sunny sides as a material for plastic cards which is a typical consumer application used in large and rapidly increasing quantities. For such a short-life mass product it is PET plastic card which is the material to be chosen and to be widely used.