“We are a successful retail home improvement company near Cardiff. Although it has only been mentioned a couple of times by customers I am worried that the negative publicity about plastic will have an effect on my PVC-U window sales. With increasing sales going to aluminium is that the end for PVC-U windows and doors?” RJ, Cardiff
The images of tonnes of plastic floating around on and in the seas during the past few months have been truly alarming and although I have a somewhat cynical disposition when it comes to what we read in the press (with the notable exception of this fine publication of course!) and what we see and hear from the broadcast media, this simply cannot be ‘fake news’, to coin a now popular phrase.
The images of literally miles of debris scarring some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines is devastating; when you read also about the plastic particles actually suspended in the water itself, being ingested by the creatures that inhabit these spaces, it beggars belief.
I must admit that when these images and reports became a daily occurrence I wondered if there would be any impact on what is still the most dominant material for the manufacture of windows in the UK, especially those installed in home improvements. Whilst you and I understand that the link between the stuff that’s choking our oceans, you can’t blame Mr & Mrs Jones-at-home (thought I’d keep it local) for making a connection – well it’s plastic isn’t it?
None of our trade customers at Pioneer have reported any sort of feedback, which indicates to me that if they have had any sort of kickback, it hasn’t cost them sales. The sales people for Willow, our local retail company in Chelmsford, have reported a couple of comments but they were quickly satisfied when they were reassured that the material used in window frames was quite different from that used in bottles and bags; and that after all they would expect their windows to stay in the frames for at least 25 years, right?
My suggestion to you is make sure that you and your team are up with the facts: the truth is that this fine industry of ours has become very good at recycling the old windows that are removed from buildings, with most ‘post-consumer’ frames being put back into the system through a highly effective and developed system.
I am told that in an ideal world the old windows should be directly re-processed into new windows but that concept is not as advanced as it should be. Astonishingly, apparently there continues to be resistance to the inclusion of any amount of recycled material being used in new profiles, let alone profiles that are mostly extruded from recycled polymer. We really do need to deal with this within the industry. All of the frame extruders have systems that include some recycled material and most have profiles that are produced from predominantly recycled PVC-U. But few of them use the incredibly strong sustainability messages to promote them.
However, the majority of frames removed are turned into such products as electrical conduit, pipes and a host of other products, all of which extend the life of the material for at least another 25 years and more. In fact I am told that PVC-U may be recycled at least 5 or 6 times, to give a lifecycle of 150 years and more. Those in the know assure me that few industries have such an advanced recycling system as the window business.
PVC-U windows continue to be the best value for money of any of the products out there and allow homeowners to improve their homes both aesthetically and of course, through greatly improved energy performance, thus improving the efficiency of a home and reducing the carbon footprint of the family overall. Of course, modern aluminium and timber windows offer high efficiency and each has their own USPs. But my feeling is that homeowners continue to be more interested in how their house will look, rather then delve into the relative sustainability merits of each, but it doesn’t hurt to have all of the cards.
My advice is to ensure that you offer a comprehensive range of PVC-U, aluminium and timber products (I checked your website – no mention of timber) to ensure that you have the answers to all of your customers’ needs. But I would also stock and promote PVC-U windows that are manufactured using recycled material, the more the merrier, to take advantage of the growing concern with the environment, and to placate any pang of conscience customers may be feeling as a result of watching Blue Planet. Carve yourself out a niche as the local ‘sustainable’ window company.
When supermarket shelves are crammed full of products shouting about their sustainability, with packaging all clearly marked with recycling advice and homeowners compelled to recycle rubbish by their local authorities, surely it makes sense to offer windows and doors that can also appeal to our eco-sensitivities. In fact, pictures of the crap floating in the seas might actually help sales of such products.
*Danny Williams is managing director of Chelmsford based Pioneer Trading and has been involved with all aspects of the windows and doors industry for 30 years. His activities include manufacturing, retailing and commercial contracting.