Plastic classification code 3 - PVC

What is PVC?

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The abbreviation for Polyvinyl Chloride (C2H3Cl)n is PVC. It is the world's third most popular plastic. In the first place you will find Polyethylene (PE) and second place runner is Polypropylene (PP). You get rigid and soft PVC. People also call it vinyl, especially in the USA.

Rigid PVC

is used for construction material such as windows, doors, ceilings, gutters and down pipes. In addition it is widely used for water distribution (drain pipes, sanitary sewer and water systems).

Stack of pvc pipe lengths in stock yard

​Flexible PVC

is used for signage, clothing, flexible containers and tubing (healthcare), flooring products, consumer products (shower curtains, inflatables) and of course … PVC strip curtains.

Therefore you can say it is quite common in our daily lives. We can hardly imagine a day without Polyvinyl Chloride.

transparent flexible pvc

Properties of PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride shows good chemical resistance to bases, acids, salts, fats and alcohols. In addition PVC offers good electrical insulation although not as good as PE or PP. As a result it is used for low to medium voltage electrical cable insulation. Thanks to its high hardness and mechanical properties, it is extensive used in sanitary sewer systems. Heat stabilizers and manufacturing additives enhance its heat stability. PVC is a thermoplastic just like PE and PP which means its chemical composition doesn't change when heated and it offers good insulation.

​Recycling PVC

Polyvinyl Chloride, like most synthetic plastics, are durable and degrade poorly. This is of concern when the product reaches its end of life (EOL). We cannot overemphasize the importance to discard PVC responsibly because it resists natural degradation. Look for the looping arrow triangle with the digit “3” to identify Polyvinyl Chloride. The good news, however, is that Polyvinyl Chloride (including PVC strip curtains) can be recycle 7 times giving it a life span of 140 years (under ideal conditions). You require less energy to make new PVC if you use recycled PVC.

List of plastic types for easy recycling

Plastic recycling classification codes

Let's briefly look at Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) as well - given their sheer presence in modern day life.


is also a thermoplastic. In terms of features it is a good electrical insulator but it suffers in terms of hardness and rigidity when compared to PVC. The most common types of PE are HDPE (high density Polyethylene), MDPE (medium density Polyethylene) and LDPE (low density Polyethylene). Application of PE range from shopping bags, bubble wrap, containers (milk jugs, margarine tubs, juice bottles, dust bins), water pipes and film wrap. Even your popular Zip Lock bag. For recycling purposes, HDPE uses plastic recycle code 2 and LDPE uses code 4.

Flavoured milk powder container with plastic recycle codes

Plastic bottle with recycle codes


is slightly harder and more heat resistant than Polyethylene (PE) and belongs to the polyolefins group. It is also a thermoplastic as mentioned above although slightly harder and it can withstand more heat than PE. Polypropylene also offers good resistance to fatigue. This type of plastic can therefore be found in the Tic Tac container, plastic chairs, flower pots, DVD cases, food containers (microwavable), prescription bottles, laboratory tubes and clear bags. The code assigned to this plastic is the digit “5” inside the chasing arrow triangle.

Orange juice bottle with recycle codes

Plastic recycle codes on container

Next What is PVC strip curtains?