The plethora of claims about products being “green”, “based on renewable resources”, “biologically derived”, “environmentally friendly”, “ecological products”, etc., are often untested in practice and frequently are confusing to the public. The term “sustainable” is, by contrast, far from arbitrary, addressing the multiple chemical, physical, social, and economic dimensions that need to be considered in an integrated way. The authors outline their definition of “sustainable”, assessing the potential for PVC and its additives to become sustainable across its societal life cycle when key challenges are addressed. The PVC industry has been addressing these sustainability challenges for over a decade, during which time progress has been reported in a number of scientific papers and technical articles as well as some books. The European PVC industry has also recently published a new ten-year commitment to sustainable development (J. Ertl, “Vinyl 2010 - Industry Re-invented for a Sustainable Future,” in PVC 2011, Brighton, UK (2011)–VinylPlus press release, European PVC Industry Launches Ambitious New Ten Year Sustainability Commitment and Calls for More Support for Recycling in Europe, Brussels, Belgium (2011)) see also: http://www.vinyl plus.eu/, and this paper constitutes a contribution to that longer-term vision by assessing the role of metals and other chemical constituents in the broader drive towards sustainability by the PVC industry. To achieve this, we have updated some of the information published by Azar et al. (C. Azar, J. Holmberg, and K. Lindgren, Ecol Econ., 18, 69 (1996)) about the relative natural and anthropogenic flows of a range of elements extracted from the Earth's crust, assessing how this affects the likelihood of certain metals contributing to the sustainable use of PVC. The authors then describe an example of how to use a sustainability framework to evaluate products and to plan for their becoming fully sustainable in the long term. J. VINYL ADDIT. TECHNOL., 19:73–85, 2013. © 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers
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