Basel Convention classifying PVC as a notifiable material now in force

The clock is ticking for PVC
The clock is ticking for PVC

Latest regulations have brought PVC banner material closer to the end of the line.  Eco- alternative PVC-free Kavalan is ready to take its place with all of its incumbent’s advantages but none of its eco-malignance

Latest updates to the Basel Convention, an international treaty that governs the shipments of hazardous waste, has identified PVC as a notifiable material. This is creating more paperwork plus additional costs for UK based suppliers, making the import/export of PVC waste between the UK and Europe a far more stringent process.
A notification gives permission to move PVC waste between a specific site, using a specific route, by specific carriers to a specific destination.  The notification usually lasts 12 months, and the cost will depend on how many loads between those specific sites are needed within that year.  For example, for 5 loads or less, the application cost is £1,450  but here there are additional costs because the notifier must provide a financial guarantee to cover the Environment Agency fees should the waste need to be returned to the UK. For notifications of over 500 shipments the costs begin at around £14, 250.

Passing costs along

The changes in the Basel Convention which implement the requirement to notify PVC (and all plastic polymers in their various categories) were agreed in May 2019 to be implemented from 1 January 2021.  Finally, it seems that traditional PVC banner is reaching the end of the road. If the long-recognised harmful health and environmental evidence isn’t enough, the latest regulations, associated costs and possible fines have jeopardised the single thing that PVC banner had going for it –cheapness of price. In short, the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.

Traditional banner PVC, a terrible legacy

Polyvinyl Chloride is the most toxic plastic in the world. While solid PVC recycling for the construction industry for example is well established, PVC banner recycling is a different story, which due to the number of additives i.e phthalates, plasticisers and chemicals it contains, makes recovery complex and impractical. Tests have also shown that recycled PVC banner material is substandard, unstable and very expensive. 

Because of the difficulties with recycling, the life story of a PVC graphic always has an unhappy ending. It’s estimated that in 2018, over 340 million square meters of PVC banner material was printed in Europe, much of which either ended-up in landfill, where it will remain for hundreds of years, leaching pernicious chemicals into the ground water, or it is simply incinerated.

The trouble with this is that when PVC is burned it emits hydrogen chloride (HCl), a noxious and dangerous colourless gas, which along with toxic dioxins are extremely damaging to the air, water and land eco systems. These chemicals are also highly corrosive and hugely injurious to human health, causing cancers, birth defects and even death.

Kavalan PVC-free

The wide-format print industry aware of the hazards of PVC has long been searching for an eco-alternative. Over the past decade several products have been launched onto the market but none lived up to the promise.

However, this has now categorically changed with the arrival of PVC-free Kavalan,  a true replacement for PVC. Uncannily, it has the same look, feel, performance and strength of traditional PVC with none of its toxicity. As a core product Kavalan has never been historically as cheap as PVC but it’s certainly cheap enough. With new penalties in the overall PVC supply chain rising, overall costs will inevitably start to tip the price balance, all accompanied by a new corporate mindset that now demands accountability and traceability in the life of a product.

Accreditations and testing

Kavalan is water-based, PVC and phthalate-free, and has LCA accreditation, a stringent environmental rating that assesses the impact of a material from manufacture to disposal. Kavalan is also RoHS, REACH compliant and has all relevant standard fire ratings: NFPA-701, DIN4102-B1and EN13501-1. 

Its stringent eco credentials are also matched by its quality and performance. The ability to hold a weld is key to banner performance and in independent tests carried out by global welding titans FIAB, Miller Weldmaster and LEISTER, Kavalan triumphed with 100% approval.  

Bjorn Bora, CEO, FIAB said, “All industry players need to address environmental issues and to this end, we can truly recommend Kavalan as a unique solution.”

Rob van Dijken, EU BV Business Manager at Miller Weldmaster said, “The first time I laid eyes and hands on the Kavalan products, I found it hard to believe they were not PVC. I imagine it will be a big game-changer in the industry.”  

GESS, Europe’s leading banner and signage installation company, put Kavalan through its own stringent tear tests, and it performed so well that the company has wholeheartedly endorsed it. 

Martin Hicks, Managing Director, GESS said, “All the material samples have withstood the test loads on the usual materials we work with, and with the added rope edge pocket finishing they will be fine for the large format sites we currently work on.”

Market readiness

The market misconception that a non-PVC material doesn’t cut it when it comes to real commercial outdoor environments no longer stands. Sports brands for example, have stringent sustainability targets, and now they can specify Kavalan for all their outdoor/stadium banner work knowing that they are using a green product that delivers on quality, performance and safety.

Sean Roberts, Manager of EFI’s global Customer Experience Centers, who recently tested Kavalan said, “Kavalan ticks all the boxes. I would have no reservation in recommending the Kavalan products on the VUTEk ‘R’ series or really any other VUTEk platform.

“Our customers have been looking for a PVC replacement for years. This is revolutionary, Kavalan really is a game-changer.”