Vinyl siding is both cost efficient and low maintenance; it also can come with a life-time guarantee attached to it. With new innovations it is more durable and better insulated than it used to be. However, there are still many people who have concerns about the manufacture and use of vinyl siding because it is a synthetic substance and they fear it will have an adverse effect on the environment.
The fact is that vinyl siding is not particularly environmentally friendly. It is theoretically recyclable, since it is made of PVC which can be melted down and reused, but there is no one actually doing it at this time. New vinyl siding that is left over can be recycled, but not old vinyl siding removed from houses. Some manufacturers have begun to use some recycled materials in their siding, but no one makes a vinyl siding completely composed of recycled materials.
One advantage vinyl siding does have is that it does not need to be painted. It lasts on a house for a very long time, and so does not often have to be thrown out. On the other hand, it is very flammable, and when it burns it releases a chemical that can be hazardous to firefighters and anyone standing nearby. Those caught in the house may be more likely to die of smoke inhalation because of it. It’s not hazardous to the environment in general. Some experiments have shown that it is actually more likely to catch fire than wood is.
Vinyl siding is not as energy intensive to make as aluminum siding is, but the chemicals themselves can be hazardous if not handled properly. It’s made of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which was found to produce a rash of cancer in workers when it was produced in open vats. New regulations changed that in 1971, but it does show that vinyl is certainly not a natural product, nor a healthy one. If you are looking for a truly environmentally friendly siding option you should consider wood or fiber cement siding, both of which cost considerably more, but which are fully recyclable.