February 16,2023

PVC Waste Treatment in the Nordic Countries

High recycling rates and cutting-edge environmental requirements are well known for the Nordic nations (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland). They do, however, also contribute significantly to incineration.

The Nordic countries' polyvinyl chloride waste management is characterized by a dearth of trustworthy data and a lack of formal accounting. It is crucial to take into account the various approaches from an environmental standpoint while dealing with the PVC waste treatment problem.

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Waste Management Hierarchy

The collection, recycling, and disposal of trash are all parts of waste management. In order to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacture and consumption of new products, it is crucial to manage trash in a sustainable way. This poses a significant problem since landfilling garbage contaminates soil and groundwater and emits hazardous chemicals and gases that harm the ecosystem.

Waste management and the management of non-hazardous items can be done in a variety of ways. The Trash Management Hierarchy published by the EPA is a popular approach to waste management, while each model has its benefits.

The hierarchy emphasizes waste reduction techniques including reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting. Additionally, it tries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which fuel climate change.

Cities in Europe are plagued with PVC trash, particularly those in Scandinavia where there is a high demand for pvc products. To address some of the environmental and health issues related to PVC waste, the EU has released a number of waste legislation and management strategies.

Pre- and post-consumer PVC trash are collected and recycled separately at the national level in several countries. However, these programs are mostly voluntary and only gather a small portion of the region's overall garbage generation (see Table 3).

There is a dearth of information on the handling of WEEE and cables, much of which concentrates on pre-treatment and disassembly procedures rather than end-of-life procedures, such as the disposal of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). It is unknown whether PVC from cables or WEEE is recycled via the PlastSep procedure.

The majority of the waste produced in the Nordic region is transferred to facilities that turn waste into water and electricity. This is seen as a waste management approach that is more environmentally friendly than landfilling.

Separate Collection

PVC is a plastic substance that has a lengthy history of use. It is incorporated into many different things, like as furniture, pipes, and window frames. It can be a significant waste stream in a waste treatment system because of its extended life cycle and susceptibility to degradation over time.

PVC waste management in the Nordic nations is comparable to that of other plastics. But there are variations.

Finland, Norway, and Sweden don't have distinct PVC collecting systems that are under state control. For specific PVC waste fractions, primarily pre-consumer PVC trash, smaller scale business-to-business systems are in operation.

Although some PVC garbage is collected individually, the majority is collected in mixed municipal waste streams. Typically, it is sorted out as a reject fraction and routed to energy recovery from this point (Hakkinen, 2018).

Despite the fact that the Nordic countries consume a lot of home textiles, the majority of them are burned together with other residual waste. Since most of the fabrics might have been recycled or used again, this represents a significant loss of resources.

Additionally, a significant amount of rigid PVC trash is produced in the construction and demolition industry. This is due to the fact that it is frequently employed in piping and plumbing applications.

About 50% of PVC trash in Denmark comes from this industry, although the percentage is higher in Norway and Finland.

Although most PVC waste in the area is disposed of in mixed waste flows, certain minor amounts are also materially recycled overseas and some is landfilled. The Nordic waste management plan has not grown as much as the EU's, particularly in terms of recycling, which has led to increasing percentages of waste being burned without energy recovery.

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Reusing resources that would otherwise be thrown away is the process of recycling. It is an essential component of contemporary waste reduction, and by lowering the demand for raw materials, it supports environmental sustainability.

pvc polyvinyl chloride is a popular type of plastic that may be recycled in a number of ways (Fig. 1). In Denmark, 10–13% of all PVC trash is recycled annually, according to VinylPlus.

National figures, however, do not adequately account for the amount of recycled PVC. According to official Danish data, only approximately 10% of the 7,000 t/year of independently collected PVC waste that is generated is recycled.

The remainder is either burned or dumped in a landfill. In Denmark, the construction and demolition industry accounts for a sizable portion of the rigid PVC waste produced. This is a result of the high rates of PVC consumption in the C&D industry, and it also contains some long-lasting items that, if buried underground, will not be collected as a separate waste category.

Meanwhile, the consumer sector accounts for a sizable portion of the production of soft PVC. This is due to its widespread use in flexible items like shower trays, industrial and domestic furniture, etc. These end up in mixed municipal garbage streams that are either landfilled or sent to energy recovery facilities.

The Nordic region is generally moving away from disposing of mixed trash in landfills, and energy recovery is becoming a more popular alternative. The prohibition on organic and biodegradable garbage, the levy on landfilling, and the generally cheaper prices for the incineration of mixed waste all have an impact on this.


The Nordic nations are renowned for their high rates of recycling and cutting-edge environmental rules, yet they also account for a sizable portion of waste incineration. Reduced garbage production and less reliance on landfills are two benefits of incinerating waste. On the other hand, it might result in hazardous emissions and have an impact on the health of nearby community populations.

Environmentalists condemn incineration because it frequently carries a higher risk for negative health effects and releases significant quantities of chemicals and pollutants into the air. Some of these substances can worsen current environmental pollution issues and are known to be detrimental to human health, such as the carcinogen dioxin.

Additionally, burning creates hazardous smoke that can get into the air and water supplies and be consumed. Negative consequences including cancer and birth abnormalities may result from this.

The chlorines found in PVC waste are also a big cause for concern since they might cause corrosion in the flue gas cleaning system, which could affect the incineration process. To prevent the emission of hazardous chlorines, this must be avoided by thermally treating separately collected PVC waste in incinerators at temperatures exceeding 1100 degrees Celsius (Wienchol et al., 2020).

Numerous trash incineration facilities are still in use in the Nordic nations despite these worries. To reduce capital expenses, several businesses use low-temperature incineration equipment. However, this strategy produces significant amounts of harmful pollutants, such as dioxins and furans. In neighborhoods near incinerators, this may raise the risk of cancer and birth abnormalities.


Since 2009, a landfilling prohibition has made it necessary to treat the majority of PVC waste through energy recovery. Due of its higher tax rate than garbage incineration, this alternative is not cost-effective.

A national system set up by producers and importers collects rigid PVC trash from household and packaging applications. It is separated for drainpipes, water and sewage pipes, cable channels, door and window profiles, wall panels, and gutters at municipal recycling facilities. 12 major PVC importers and producers are funding this collection scheme (Jensen, 2018).

Several companies that manufacture/import flooring and piping items send the PVC fraction for recycling elsewhere. Compared to the volumes of PVC trash collected in Denmark, only a little quantity is exported; each year, about 0.5 kt of hard pvc pipe waste is transferred to Sweden and Latvia for recycling (Pohjakaljio and Punkkinen, 2018).

Data from Producer Responsibility Organizations show that 144 kt of WEEE (commercial and industrial) was collected in the Nordic nations in 2017. (EE-registret, 2017; Vaajasaari, 2018). Energy recovery is used to remediate the majority of plastic trash, however due of limits in Finland, a small amount is dumped in landfills.

Although incinerating waste has been used to handle mixed waste and some hazardous waste, it is not the primary option in the Nordic nations. Due to excessive levels of HCl and dioxin emissions, the majority of energy recovery plants in the area do not accept separately collected PVC waste for burning.