Virgin or recycled vinyl?

Recycled vinyl may contain materials that have a negative impact on the performance and safety of the product. By purchasing 100% pure vinyl, you are ensuring that your floor will be safe and perform as expected.

One topic that is worth considering is whether your vinyl floor is made of pure virgin material, or is recycled. Although the word “recycled” would imply a more ecological and sustainable alternative, the story is more complicated. It is important to understand what recycled actually means with PVC. The standards for vinyl recycling are not the same as for other recycled products. Recycled vinyl is, in reality, a mix of vinyl and any other materials that might have been mixed with it as part of the previous waste stream. That is to say, there is no standard that says only pure PVC can be recycled. Examples of waste that is often incorporated in recycled vinyl are old tires, power lines, and even copper wires.

The result can have numerous negative effects, both on performance and on health and safety. As soon as other materials are mixed with PVC, many of the major advantages of vinyl (durability, waterproofness, dimensional stability) are compromised. Because there is no standard specifying what waste-stream sources can be used in recycled vinyl, there is no way for the consumer to know what percentage of heavy metals or other materials are in their floor.

The issue of safety is of equal concern. Because the waste-stream mix can change from batch to batch, even independently tested recycled vinyl can be risky. Everything from lead to phthalates is found in recycled vinyl, and over time as the wear-layer wears down these dangerous materials are released.

The good news is that PVC is actually extremely recyclable, and loses very little of its dimensional stability when recycled. As the industry develops, the hope is for more rigorous standards for what waste inputs are allowed. So long as 100% pure vinyl is recycled, it can result in a great post-consumer product.

For now, however, we feel strongly that investing in pure virgin PVC is the best way to build a strong foundation for the future of recycled vinyl flooring, without risking the quality of your floor or your health. Since in all cases the future inputs for recycled vinyl will be virgin PVC, by getting 100% pure vinyl, you are ensuring your floor will be recyclable, and not have to end up in a landfill.

For some recent topics on vinyl recyclability, you can read here:

Recycled Vinyl Can Reintroduce Chemical Hazards Into Building Products

Vinyl’s toughest question: Pure or recycled content?