By Janice Kleinschmidt
When Christo and Jeanne-Claude call themselves “environmental artists,” they are referring to the fact that their works transform the way we view our surroundings. But they are environmental artists in another way: They insist that at the end of their temporary exhibitions, the materials be recycled.
When their project The Gates, located in Central Park, N.Y., was dismantled, 750,000 pounds of PVC were recycled by Nicos Polymers Group in Nazareth, Pa. While most of the PVC was used for water and sewer pipes, the artists allowed The Vinyl Institute to make engineering rulers out of vinyl recycled by Nicos.
Ferrari Textiles in southern France manufactures its products to be light, long-lasting, and 100 percent recyclable. The first two qualities, of course, are what make PVC popular. But Ferrari steps outside of the box.
“We are the first company to even consider—let alone create—a recycling facility specifically for our products,” says Steve Fredrickson, architectural market manager for the weaver and fabric-coating specialist.
Ferrari’s materials are used to manufacture everything from tarps, tents, awnings and tension structures to solar screens and digital signage. The company has established collection points in six European countries. Non-European clients can ship used or scrap materials to Ferrari headquarters, where PVC composites are crushed, dissolved, separated and the solvent regenerated in a process called Texyloop®. The resulting PVC granules (employed in injection molding) and polyester fibers are used by automobile manufacturers for everything from dashboards to seats, as well as by other industries. Texyloop uses less energy than virgin-material production.
“That benefits society as a whole in that [used PVC] is going into other industries, which don’t have to create new PVC and new polyester fibers; which saves the company economically, but also saves the environment from another process,” Fredrickson says.
Ferrari also works with companies such as Freitag and Reversible—which convert old truck tarps and advertising banners into fashionable bags, iPod® cases and Mac® laptop covers—and PVC Recyclage, which converts old PVC pipe and filament yarns into traditional PVC applications such as fencing and windows.
While The Vinyl Institute maintains a database on its Web site of vinyl-recycling companies in North America, some manufacturers are following Ferrari’s lead in bringing recycling in-house.
Dan Fox, manager of performance films for Omnova, says his company is obtaining 20-year-old vinyl to evaluate for recycling.
“If we can do that,” he says, “we certainly win on a number of fronts.”