Avoid using PVC

I see a lot of projects that use or re-use different grades of PVC pipe due to its easy use and availability. Free or cheap PVC seems to be a good material choice for those who lack the tools and skills needed for metal or wood work. I suggest that builder rethink this choice. Exposure to PVC is dangerous to your health. Fumes and dust from cutting, drilling and accidental burning or overheating PVC are known to cause cancer.
A few points:
PVC production is the largest use of chlorine gas in the world.
Chlorine production consumes enormous amounts of energy.
Chlorine production causes mercury pollution.
Hazardous by-products are formed throughout the PVC lifecycle.
By-products of PVC production are highly persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.
PVC is extremely difficult to recycle.
PVC is one of the most environmentally hazardous consumer materials ever produced.
source: http://www.healthybuilding.net/pvc/ThorntonPVCSummary.html

Different grades of PVC have different melting points, flash and glass temperatures.
At 70-80 Degrees C (~150 F), most grades begin to soften and degrade in performance. This should be taken into account when building projects that involve any kind of direct or indirect heat, including hot water, etc.

(I've edited this post to contain more useful information)

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snotty6 years ago
Bamboo is pretty good. I just made an awesome, strong, bamboo bicycle. And bamboo is not going to give you cancer like PVC will. PVC is cheap but chemotherapy is expensive. I guess cancer is the high cost of cheap material.

What about PEX pipe? Has anyone used it? PEX is common in DIY solar applications and I think it's non-toxic.  Can someone verify this?

snotty snotty6 years ago
Oh and I made bamboo wind turbine blades too. They're in an art show in Toyko right now.
NCRatSniper7 years ago
Damn hippies.
hippy that doesn't help protect the earth.
If we don't use the PVC, more of it will go into landfills.
"PVC is no recyclable" If it isn't recyclable, then why do people use it for other purposes? That's recyclyling(?)
Besides, the problem with scrap wood here and there, it could burn, and ruin the project.ductape?
Exactly! PVC piping is first, easy to deal with, second, easy to get ones hands on, and third: Cheap!
Im cheap so.. yeah... 100% with ya :)
me too!
thank you
blugyblug7 years ago
"PVC production is still extremely unfriendly to the environment and human health" Not using PVC wont stop it from being manufactured. You say PVC is bad for the environment when it is manufactured, but when it is manufactured, if you dont buy it, someone else will buy it and it will be used for something. Too bad. I thought you would say something like "PVC shrapnel is really bad in Spud guns" or something, but it went onto this rant about the environment... I really dont think anyone will really heed this advice. No offense but seriously, no one really listens to stuff like this.
toxonix (author)  blugyblug7 years ago
How much of that was a rant about the environment? I object to its use on many levels, not just environmental.
Well, SOME of the post was about the environment, and thats what i was talking about. With some other stuff (Its toxic, metal works better etc) thats true, metal is alot better than PVC and looks cooler... Wood is weaker than PVC though, especially scrap wood, it might be rotten on the inside or something if you pick it up out of a junkyard.
plus pvc is WAY cheaper and that means it is better as far as i care
But if instrucables stopped using PVC, then they would make less of it, meaning less of the environmentally unfriendly piping.
no, they would not make less of it,ibles members are spread al over the world and even then there are too few of us for the market to change to that degree and also......why do u say this stuff here on a diy site? go to a hippie forum or something
The effect, however small, is there. My own opinions on the environment are completely irrelevant, so stop attacking the arguer and address the point properly. Arguments like "then someone else use it" fall flat on its face. Why? because whether you bought the piping or not the other guy still will.

To what degree? I didn't specify one. Eco-nuts stress that its all the small things that can add up to change, you're thinking too narrow.
indor porto-potties perhaps? no
basic rule in economy : manufacture adapts to needs in market most likely - for example 999 / 1000 nobody would mind the 1 pvc pipe you dont buy. small 1 / 1000 chance is that this is the pipe that'll trigger the supply chain to buy 1000 pipes less next time and the manufacturer to produce 1000 pipes less on average you can say that 1 pipe not bought leads to 1 pipe not produced same goes for other stuff too. for example i am a veggie. if i dont buy products made of killed animals now then on aerage i save the same amount of animals later
True, but things like that only happen on the long run, where it hardly makes a difference. Say there was PVC, and Metal. Usually the metal is alot more expensive but this time there is a really cheap, good metal pipe somewhere. People would start buying that and the PVC pipes would hardly get bought anymore. (That was a really bad explanation but you get the point) THATS when they wouldnt manufacture as much PVC
The problem with that statement, though, is that metal always will cost more because it is harder to work with.
That's not the point, its purely a thought experiment.

on average you can say that 1 pipe not bought leads to 1 pipe not produced
That's BS. Factories produce huge amounts of PVC. This is then ordered by stores, who sign a contract, and receive X feet every month/week. If that pipe isn't bought, they just have one more pipe the next month.

same goes for other stuff too. for example i am a veggie. if i dont buy products made of killed animals now then on aerage i save the same amount of animals later
First, please spell correctly if you're going to debate. There IS a spell check, you know. And lets put it in perspective.

The average American eats ~275 pounds of meat per person a year. Assuming the population of the United States is about 300 million, you come up with the entire United states eating about 60,000,000,000 pounds of meat a year. You not eating meat doesn't even save a whole cow (cows yielding about 725 lbs. of meat)

I don't eat much meat (parents force me to eat some meat), and would be a vegetarian if I could, but saying that not eating meat will lead to less being produced is insane.
Exactly. Stores sign contracts and they get the same amount each time the shipment arrives, and not eating meat doesn't help. In my case, eating as few vegetables as possible doesn't help either, but that's no the point.
crapflinger6 years ago
people who make the "if you don't buy X then they won't make X" argument drive me up the wall...you've got the concept all wrong.

yes the main driving force in a free market (remember, not all markets where PVC is produced are free markets) is supply and demand (i.e. supply must equal to or be slightly lower than demand to turn a profit). which would make your argument sound. except that supply and demand aren't the only parts of the equation. if supply and demand were the only things that drove production, then any company that didn't make product at a rate relatively close to demand would simply close down. all companies would make exactly how many of whatever their product is for the amount that's demanded for purchase (give or take a safety margin)

but the MOST important function of supply and demand is profit margin.

if you can have an infinite supply of something, but you can't make a profit off of it, then demand makes no difference. no one is going to produce/sell this thing for no profit.

so take that and apply it to PVC...why is PVC so cheap? because it's ridiculously cheap to make which gives the makers a massive profit margin on the volume that they can make. add that to it's ubiquitous usage/availability and you end up with some serious demand/consumption.

so to "kill the PVC machine" you'd not only have to convince enough people to stop buying PVC to lower demand, but you'd also have to lower demand enough to where the profit margin on the supply would be unapealing to anyone making the product.

if it costs a manufacturer $.25 to make a 10' PVC pipe (completely random numbers) and they sell that pipe for $1, then you'd have to reduce demand for that 10" pipe enough to where buying the pipe for any more than $.25 at the store wouldn't make sense to the consumer
Last comment from the author: June.

irrelevant when the topic is something that's broad and not ending....

it is a discussion type topic, not a question type topic about a specific incident or project
Yes indeed, but it is (or was) a rather dead topic. The answer is good, but covered previously.

still irrelevant, if it's a discussion, i'm allowed to state my point of view. whether it's been stated or not 
I don't disagree, other than the reply is rather late and people in general had given up discussing it months ago. If you re-start the discussion with a new aspect it'll be worthwhile.

seandogue6 years ago
I'm kinda surprised by the offensive "damned hippy" type remarks and reactions on a forum like Instructables, which seems to pride itself on the ideals of recycling. What's with you people?

In one breath, you talk about solar and wind turbines, like it's a badge of honor, then you immediately turn around and burn a bunch of toxic materials in your "fun" projects. It seems a bit hypocritical to me. What's the problem? That someone reminds you of the damge you do by overuse of checmicals and materials known to cause damage to the environement? lol...sad bunch...

Environmentalism wasn't invented by hippies, you morons. (You morons: those of you who simply reacted to the author's words as though it were a personal attack)
i am going to use it and it is very useful and thinkenstein does not like you
D.L.H.6 years ago
Well we can not help in using PVC it is ready accessible and relatively cheap for use to use.
GnomeMaster6 years ago
Instructables is designed as a project sharing website not a website for bashing other people because they aren't using green materials
tunnasch7 years ago
I wish environmentalists were as concerned about the babies that go into the landfill as they are about the garbage that goes into the landfill.
I think they aren't worried because babies will compost but other things might kill Mother Earth!!! Dumpster Babies are NOT GOOD!!!
I wish people would throw their politcally divisive remarks into the landfill, or at least keep them out of discussions where they are completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.
toxonix (author)  tunnasch7 years ago
babies don't go into the landfill. They get incinerated. :)
That was enlightening
zachninme8 years ago
Hmm... although yes, it will sit in the 'fill for years, its not doing anything bad to the environment.

what he/she said.
Firebert0108 years ago
PVC is recyclable....
toxonix (author)  Firebert0108 years ago
Not in any practical or economical way so far.
Mr. Rig It8 years ago
Just so you know PVC isn't just for plumbing waste water, at least no here in the US. It has many uses other than that. You can use it for mister systems, yard sprinkler systems, and or you can use it as air comppressor lines in your garage. PVC is just plastic and it is a chep material to use and it is strong enough you can use it over and over in other projects.

"Also PVC compounds are 100% recyclable physically, chemically or energetically." Go here to read more http://www.recovinyl.com/pvc

Just a note, and I am not trying to be rude, but if you are going to try and be an expert on a subject it helps to do research first so you know what you are talking about.

Wish you all well, have a great day.
toxonix (author)  Mr. Rig It8 years ago
Thanks for your opinion, and I have in fact been studying PVC and chemical production for a few years. Recently I was involved in studies related to efforts to get 4 of the major PVC producers in the US to adopt safer environmental controls, and to stop the use and release of mercury into the atmosphere. Please note that recovinyl.com is just a website, it does not provide any actual recycling services. There are many similar government and corporate groups that are attempting to provide incentive programs to PVC recyclers, but few companies are signing up. It is not a very profitable venture in itself without significant subsidies from the vinyl manufactures. At the most 0.6% of vinyl is recycled in the UK. This is mostly down-cycling, which produces lower quality and less useful products to limit the amount of construction and post consumer waste. In order for down-cycled PVC to be used in most applications, it must be combined with 40-60% virgin vinyl. PVC is not 'just plastic', as there is no such thing. PETE,PET, ABS,PP,PS,PVC,uPVC are types of plastic, but they all have different chemical components. from the US EPA: "vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen which causes a rare cancer of the liver."
"from the US EPA: "vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen which causes a rare cancer of the liver.""

That quote was from 1998, almost 10 years ago.

toxonix (author)  zachninme7 years ago
Do you think that in the last 10 years the EPA has enforced all of the planned regulations? Or maybe humans have evolved a resistance to carcinogens in that amount of time?
Please note that recovinyl.com is just a website, it does not provide any actual recycling services
This is just a website, it does not supply me with any services allowing me to get wood or metal equivalents of PVC for a similar price, or guarantee that they are not destroying the environment similarly or worse than PVC emissions with logging or strip-mining.
toxonix (author)  Rotten1947 years ago
You missed the point. Any industry group can create a website to provide information or mis-information about their industry. Just because it is indexed by google doesn't mean it is legitimate.
Who's to say your information is legitimate? Did you get it off a website?
toxonix (author)  Rotten1947 years ago
Again, you're missing the point entirely. If any of my information is incorrect, feel free to refute it with references. The info I have is from govt, industry and privately funded studies. It is all publicly available.
Wow, ok so it does sound like you know what you are talking about. However the recovinyl.com website was the first one I selected off of yahoo for PVC recycling. It seems like a psoitive step in the right direction, so I am confused a little on what you mean by it being "just a web site". Aren't you trying to educate not to use PVC and they are trying to educate and provide incenitives to recycle PVC? I think any chemical plant has it's dangerous by products. The following link seems to have all the information that a person would want to know about PVC. It has the history of invention, its uses, how its made, the good and the bad about it and all kinds of other information. It's a pretty good read, and not so scientific that the average person couldn't understand it. Good job at not only working to create a better enviorment but also to educate and show compassion toward others with all of the hard work you have done toward your cause. keep up the good work.
toxonix (author)  Mr. Rig It8 years ago
Thanks! That's a very detailed article. Wikipedia also has a good page on vinyl:
Currently regulations for phasing out mercury based PVC production don't kick in until 2010. 3 of the 4 top US producers are still using the cheap/dirty process.
"Mr. Rig It" said, "Just so you know PVC isn't just for plumbing waste water, at least no here in the US. It has many uses other than that. You can use it for mister systems, yard sprinkler systems, and or you can use it as air comppressor lines in your garage." I recommend you read that OSHA for many years has explained some of the danger of exposed pvc air lines at
http://www.osha.gov/dts/hib/hib_data/hib19880520.html (I would only add that the sharp "shrapnel" they talk about is of course non-metallic, and I have heard third-hand it may be difficult for a surgeon to easily locate, as with common X-ray, once it is embedded in a body)!
ry259208 years ago
You have a point but if you make something that will last much longer, it won't end up in dumps. Unlike steel and wood, PVC lasts much longer.
longer like . . 5 years ? 20 years ? plastic lasts atheast thousands of years unless you found that pvc pipe in the dumpster its still better to use less durable but more green material (i did not say anything on pvc specifically but on any kind of plastic. recycling is good but it pollutes too and is very inefficient process. avoid if possible)
Whats more green about using a material that will break down faster, necessitating buying a replacement which needs more energy and chemicals to make, then buying it once? As long as the PVC is reclaimed, it is much greener than wood. Esp. if it is used outside, where the wood is often pressure-treated WITH POISON.
Ironically, due to energy, chemical usage and pollution issues, it is actually greener to use polythene bags for shopping than paper carriers, even if they are made of recycled paper.

Bit of a downer for somebody trained as a papermaker...
iTHROWDOWN7 years ago
pvc is recyclable if your so upset about it being in landfills, go to a landfill and collect some and recycle it ehhhh al gore global warming ... EHHHH
toxonix (author)  iTHROWDOWN7 years ago
Wrong. It may be possible to reclaim/recycle PVC, but it isn't done because its cheaper to use virgin vinyl.
It may be possible to reclaim/recycle PVC, but it isn't done because its cheaper to use virgin vinyl
Its cheaper to re-use then to buy new.
blugyblug7 years ago
Yeah, Damn hippies
Mandudehey7 years ago
exacally what NCRat Sniper said
lemonie8 years ago
Why pick on PVC?
It this the most harmful and wasteful consumer product?


(read an artictle about Mattel recalling millions of potentially harmful Chinese-made toys, some of which may even have contained PVC?)
toxonix (author)  lemonie8 years ago
Well, I think things made of PVC are crappy, cheap, flimsy and potentially toxic depending on the application. I've seen people build PVC bike trailers, luggage carts, a portable espresso press, potato cannons and various other things which would have been done much better had they simply taken the time to use a superior material. A book shelf made of duct tape and PVC isn't clever, especially if the builder had to go to Home Depot or Lowes to buy the materials. I see free scrap wood and metal all the time. Just takes a little dumpster diving. And reusing materials doesnt pump more cash into an already extremely wealthy chemical industry.
pvc is not at all that weak. pvc pipes are all around there. most electrical cables are isolated with pvc and dumpster diving rules ! really there is no need to buy !
lemonie toxonix8 years ago
There's a place near me (Acacia Timber) have a big skip for waste wood, and a sign saying "firewood for sale". I don't know what they do with it, but I guess it all comes down to market forces & dynamics... (PVC included)

Juklop8 years ago
Wood and Metal is way more expensive than PVC pipe. So why bother spending more when I can do the exact thing with PVC pipe for way less.?
toxonix (author) 8 years ago
Here's an example:

There's no reason for this builder to use PVC pipes to make the structure for this sunshade. It looks crappy, it's flimsy, its going to break and now he's got all that sawed off waste to dispose of before his kid starts chewing on it.

If it isn't already apparent, I'm a little bit psycho about this stuff. We've got some chemical plants and refineries in my area that we are constantly fighting with to get them to stop polluting.
I agree on most of this stiff, I especially hate the feel of PVC and havn't used it for anything, I prefer ABS if plastic is called for but I think wood and metal are the ways to go, the feeling of a wood frame is so much better and solid, it has give but isn't wiggling junk, Metal has that awsome coolness to the touch and seemingly infinite durability, I trust metal more than any material even when rusted/corroded simply because you can predict it's behaviour, it will let you know your screwed before you set foot on it, also after if's broken it doesn't have plans to poison birds and kill wildlife while running around like a psycho for several years...

Also what's so good about plastic? It breaks and becomes useless, an 8ft beam of wood split in two is two useful bits of wood
A pvc pipe will be bent and unsafe of will have shattered under age and be embedded in your dog

Metal just bends, then you make it in to a sword...
I'll use as much PVC as I like, as long as I find it for free at the dump.
trebuchet038 years ago
If you're going to make a claim, you need to say why - and then back it up with sources. Once you've done that, I'm more than ready and willing to counter that claim with citations. Here's a hint though -- because PVC has been scrutinized so much, it's become one of the most recyclable and cleanest (production wise) plastic. I'll admit, however, that at one time PVC wasn't so friendly and it sounds like you're getting your information from outdated material.