Vinyl house siding, shown here, generally poses a low threat to the environment and health
The risk that vinyl siding poses to homeowners appears to be low under ordinary conditions.

Vinyl, otherwise known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), can pose a danger to human health and the environment under extreme conditions. For instance, when it’s burned in a high-temperature fire, some of its toxic components, such as chlorine gas and the carcinogen dioxin, are released into the environment. In general, though, any harm vinyl siding may pose to people or the environment is small. "Most of the risk is to PVC production workers not following proper protection guidelines," says Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumer Reports.

What’s more, siding that ends up in a landfill tends not to degrade, so there’s little likelihood that its components will leach into soil or water, says Dwight Patterson, an associate professor of chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. And while vinyl that burns can release toxins, vinyl siding in a landfill would have to be at or near the surface to burn at a temperature high enough to release those toxins, Patterson notes.

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Still, recycling vinyl siding is a more environmentally sound choice than dumping it in a landfill. “It's better to reprocess it into a new product,” Patterson says.

To recycle old panels and new scrap from your siding project, consider these steps:

Ask the contractor to recycle. He or she can make money—typically pennies per pound—and avoid municipal dump fees. If your local solid-waste management department doesn’t offer vinyl siding recycling, the Vinyl Institute’s directory, at vinylinfo.org/recycling-directory, provides a list of other options.

Recycle it yourself. Uninsulated vinyl siding isn’t heavy, says Fred Gorski, manager of Northwest Polymers, which recycles vinyl in Molalla, Ore. At about 6 ounces per square foot, enough siding to cover 200 square feet would weigh 75 pounds, an easy load to transport in a pickup truck. Material that’s dirty, old, or brittle may be rejected, Gorski warns. Keep in mind, too, that the nearest recycler may be a long drive away.

Shopping for Home Siding?

See our siding ratings and check the Features & Specs tab for siding that has foam backing, which may increase its insulating value and help it resist crushing; longer lengths, which can allow for fewer seams; and a double hem, which reduces the siding's chances of being blown off a wall by heavy winds.

Upgrading your home's exterior? We also test paintreplacement windowsroofing, and wood stains.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.