Production methods summary

The manufacture of poly(chloroethene) takes place in three stages:

Chlorine
Chlorine is produced by the electrolysis of a solution of sodium chloride. There are currently three different designs of electrolytic cell in use, and all produce sodium hydroxide and hydrogen in addition to chlorine. Click here to find out more about chlorine manufacture.

Chloroethene monomer
The monomer is often referred to as "VCM", vinyl chloride monomer. Vinyl chloride is the common name for chloroethene. Two methods are available for its production:

  • Most monomer is made from ethene via 1,2 dichloroethane, using two parallel chlorination reactions. This is a well-established process, but improvements are continually being made to increase productivity and reduce environmental impact. For more details follow this link.
  • Chloroethene can also be made from ethane. Although the chemistry of this is well understood, turning it into a viable industrial process has been a challenge. The advantages are substantial both in terms of productivity and the effect on the environment. Find out more by clicking here.

Polymerisation
Polymerisation is a completely separate process from monomer production. Some PVC manufacturers do not make their own chloroethene monomer, but buy it to use in the manufacture of PVC products. .Click here for more details of the polymerisation process

Recycling
Like many other plastics, PVC can be recycled once it reaches the end of its useful life. This is particularly important as it tends to be used in long-life products that would not easily decompose in landfill. More information about the disposal issues surrounding PVC is given in the Issues section.

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