Recyclability and disposal issues.
Vinyl wallcoverings have a long useful life. As such, they compose a
very small fraction of the materials that are disposed in landfills
each year. In addition, most vinyl wallcovering manufacturers are
actively recycling to minimize waste related to the manufacture of
the product. Due to conditions in landfills, studies have shown that
most materials - including wallpapers - do not biodegrade when
discarded. Although the conventional assumption is that
biodegradability in a landfill is an environmental benefit, it
actually could pose a threat to the environment. When materials
biodegrade, they can release chemicals into the landfill that
potentially can reach the groundwater. Vinyl is so stable in
landfills that vinyl membranes have been used as landfill liners.
Compared to other plastics, the production of vinyl requires far
less of the world's limited fossil fuel resources. The energy
required to manufacture vinyl wallcoverings is only half as much as
the amount needed to produce the same amount of paper wallcoverings.
Indoor air quality. Vinyl
wallcoverings have a relatively low potential for odors or emissions
and have not been identified as a source of "sick building
syndrome." In fact, studies show considerably higher levels of
volatile organic compounds from paint than from vinyl
wallcoverings. Painting a room with oil- and/or solvent-based paints
can result in emissions of approximately nine times the amount of
VOCs released by vinyl wallcoverings that incorporate water-based
adhesives and inks. Tests have shown that the initial odor in vinyl
wallcoverings, attributed to stabilizers and plasticizers used in
the manufacturing process, will dissipate much faster than the odors
of most paints.