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Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most widely prevalent thermoplastics in the world today. Used to make most of the materials our built environments are constructed with, a glance around you will prove that PVC is everywhere.
Static Control Flooring
Luxury Vinyl Tile
Slip Retardant Flooring
Vinyl Composition Tile
What is vinyl comprised of? Vinyl base is made from two simple ingredients: common salt and natural gas. The common salt goes through a process of electrolysis with water to create chlorine, and the natural gas goes through a process called cracking to create ethylene. The resulting chlorine and ethylene combine to make a flour-type substance that is used as the base for all PVC products.
From here, specific chemical additives and plasticizers are added to produce the desired PVC properties. What is a plasticizer? A plasticizer is a substance that is added to a material to make it softer and more flexible, increasing its plasticity. Depending on the product being produced, the recipe is altered to achieve the material properties needed. Think of the spectrum between a solid white PVC pipe to the malleable clear PVC tubing for drawing blood.
It is important to emphasize that PVC has been used safely in consumer and commercial applications for the past 50 years and the vinyl industry operates on the principles of continuous improvement and innovation. This is evidenced in new advances in formulations that have solved problems encountered in the early years of vinyl that improve production protocols and replace ingredients of concern with alternatives that are free from ortho-phthalates and heavy metals. The current trend in vinyl is challenging the thinking of what vinyl can be and how it can best adapt to the demands of not only today, but tomorrow.
Why Choose Vinyl Flooring?
The hallmark benefits of choosing vinyl flooring are its high durability and extended life cycle, low-maintenance requirements, water-resistant properties, and cost-effectiveness. It also has the perfect balance of firmness and give for a comfortable feel underfoot. Another primary benefit of vinyl is it can be made to look like a wide array of different materials, easily mirroring a range of design possibilities from wood looks, to stone, marble, and other creative textured designs.
Cleanability and infection control are also key benefits when choosing vinyl. In their joint Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend removing soft and porous materials in high traffic areas, such as carpet or fabric on furniture, in consideration of how difficult they are to disinfect and keep clean. Vinyl provides a non-porous surface that is ever more important in this pandemic age, allowing it to be easily cleaned and sanitized.
Through a sustainability lens, vinyl has the smallest carbon footprint of any plastic and because it is a thermoplastic, it is 100% recyclable. From 2015 to 2019, the amount of PVC that was landfilled decreased by 100,000lbs and many manufacturers, including Armstrong Flooring, have takeback programs that recycle the original product to ensure a cradle-to-cradle solution.
Where PVC-Free Flooring Fits
To meet segment demands of today, manufacturers have responded in developing a spectrum of products that also include PVC-free flooring options. To accommodate this demand, Armstrong Flooring has worked to develop PVC-free collections ideal for healthcare applications in MedinPure PVC-free sheet, and Striations & Migrations BBT (bio-based tile). Both collections are free of plasticizers, ortho-phthalates, halogens, isocyanates, and other Red List Chemicals of Concern. Furthermore, BBT is made with rapidly renewable plant-based materials that are grown in the US.
The Importance of PVC Ingredient Transparency and Innovation
Manufacturers have worked hard on their innovation efforts, securing patented formulations for their vinyl recipes that speak to and deliver for the needs of today. Taking a transparent and proactive approach is paramount.
When doing your homework on types of flooring, always seek out a Health Product Declaration (HPD) and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). These documents will list the recipes being used and provide a more detailed understanding of what you are selecting. Armstrong Flooring offers third-party certification on the content provided in their HPD & EPDs objectively validating their efforts in product transparency and consumer education.