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What is PVC?


PVC, or PolyVinyl Chloride, is a type of plastic. It is made from rock salt (sodium chloride) and natural gas or oil. PVC is strong, mouldable, cheap and durable. It can be used to make a wide range of products.

Water pipes, blood bags, window frames and flooring are just some of the useful products made from PVC.

The PVC industry employs 530,000 people and contributes to sustainable development in the European Union.


PVC pipes

PVC pipes used for water drainage.



Play the animation to see how PVC is made.


Making PVC


Natural gas is heated under pressure to form ethene (also called ethylene). This is called 'cracking'.


Rock salt (sodium chloride) is split by electrolysis to produce chlorine gas.


Chlorine and ethene combine to form vinyl chloride monomer (VCM).


VCM molecules are then joined end-to-end (polymerised) to form the PolyVinyl Chloride.

Compounds are blended with the VCM during the polymerisation. These can give a range of formulations with different physical properties such as flexibility, stiffness and colour. This makes PVC suitable for a wide range of final products.