Without wires and cables, our society, as we know it, would not exist. Electricity, electronics, transports, IT, home automation depend on cables, especially in our interconnected and digitalised society.

Wires and cables are widely used to power countless appliances and electrical equipment. They are the largest application sector for flexible PVC in Europe, absorbing 7% of PVC resins production. PVC wires and cables account for around 46% of the European cables market.

PVC is used for the production of electric and data transmission cables as well as insulation and sheathing in various fields: classic electric cables for power transmission at low and medium voltage for homes and offices; telephone cables; coaxial cable TV/computer/hi-fi; cables for cars; battery cables and robotics; data transmission cables, LAN and IT.

PVC has in fact several intrinsic characteristics which make it the ideal choice for a range of different applications. For example, PVC is fire retardant and can reduce or suppress combustion in case of fires, preventing flames spreading.

PVC provides insulation, strength and protection at a wide range of operating temperatures: it maintains high thermal stability and resistance to degradation at operating temperatures from 70 °C up to 125 °C and retains its flexibility over very long life-span, at high and low temperatures, including in cold environment well below -30 °C. Furthermore, PVC wires and cables can last up to 80 years under normal conditions of use.

Flexible PVC is a sensible choice for cables and wires because it is affordable, durable, a good insulator and it can be recycled. In 2017, 126,000 tonnes of PVC cables were recycled within the framework of vinylplus® – the European PVC industry’s sustainability programme (www.vinylplus.eu), representing 20% of the total recycled volumes.

Plasticisers make PVC soft and bendable, essential characteristics to produce wires and cables and to ensure durable performance for decades. The use of plasticiser, as for any other chemical substance, is regulated in Europe by the REACH Regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) supporting their safe use in many flexible PVC applications with no risk to consumers’ health or to the environment.

Formulations for PVC cables can be defined and optimised choosing among a number of different families of plasticisers.

The selection of the right plasticiser is determined by the performance specification of insulation and jacketing (cable performance) and with respect to the process requirement in dry blending and extrusion. For example:

High-temperature specification requires thermally stable and permanent plasticisers;

Low-temperature specification requires plasticisers with high flexibility even at the lowest temperature;

Resistance to hydrocarbons require high molecular weight or polymeric plasticisers.

The following table summarises the correspondence between cable requirements and plasticiser characteristics.

Cable requirements

Plasticiser characteristics

Good compatibility with PVC

Similar polarity like PVC

Good stability

Thermal (oxidative) stability & resistant to hydrolyses

High permanency

High molecular mass

low-vapor pressure, low volatility

ow migration, high resistance to extraction

Low-temperature flexibility

In general, a high degree of linearity

Cost effectiveness

Good efficiency

Good processing; high extrusion throughput


Retained flexibility over time-permanency

Regulatory compliance


The PVC value chain is engaged in the research and development of new formulations to ensure maximum safety and protection of the environment and of the health of users and consumers. Vinylplus® commitment on the sustainable use of additives, for example, resulted in the replacement of lead-based stabilisers in PVC applications in the EU-28 by the end of 2015, whilst European plasticiser producers (www.plasticisers.org) are committed to science and research to offer substances meeting the highest performance and the strictest regulatory standards, adapted to the evolving market demand.

New formulations for PVC cables are currently under development to further improve their performance in fires.

PVC Wires and Cables – properties

High insulation characteristics

High versatility in terms of formulations

High thermal stability/resistance to degradation at operating temperatures from 70 °C up to 125 °C

Flexibility over very long life-spans, at high and low temperatures well below -30 °C

High productivity and energy efficiency during cable manufacture at relatively low cost

Resistance to hydrocarbons

Flame retardancy and fire ignition and propagation prevention


PVC4Cables (www.pvc4cables.org) is the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers’ (ECVM) platform dedicated to the PVC cables value chain. It brings together the producers of PVC resins, stabilisers and plasticisers, and PVC compounders. It is open for participation by PVC cables producers, recyclers and value chain’s associations.

PVC4Cables intends to act as a driver for environmentally responsible innovations in the PVC cables sector and as a focal point for dialogue and communications with all stakeholders: cable producers, regulators, specifiers, installers, electricians, media and the general public.

For further information or to join the PVC4Cables platform:

www.pvc4cables.orginfo@pvc4cables.org – Tel. +32 2 676.74.41 – Twitter @PVC4Cables