VEKA Recycling’s two-year mission to build Europe’s most advanced frame recycling plant has reached its conclusion. Send us your frames! says MD Simon Scholes
A six-acre industrial site in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, is now host to the most advanced installation of its type in Europe, and probably the world. For VEKA Recycling Ltd’s new facility, after two years in the making and following an exhaustive search to find an appropriate site in the right geographical location it is, quite literally, all systems go.
The Wellingborough facility is the legacy of a man that was one of the greatest exponents of the PVC-U window and door industry as we know it today. Heinrich Laumann, who bought a small shutter factory in Sendenhorst at which he worked in 1967, built the firm into what we know as VEKA and the world’s largest extruder of PVC-U window systems. And extraordinarily, the company remains family owned.
Herr Laumann was possessed of great vision and commitment to PVC-U per se. And nothing illustrates that more than the world’s first, purpose-built recycling facility for PVC-U window and door frames that he built in Behringen in 1993, long before sustainability became the broadly accepted concept that it is today. And the architect of the VEKA empire’s legacy continues with the opening of the new plant which has been built to provide the UK with single-site recycling for the UK PVC-U window and door industry, a market that has always been of key strategic importance to VEKA Group.
Simon Scholes has steered the project since the decision was taken to find an alternative site from the original location alongside the Thames Estuary in Kent, some 5 years ago. Having found the Wellingborough location he has since become Managing Director of VEKA Recycling Ltd and managed the site’s development: “This has been a fascinating project,” says Simon, “and one that has had considerable challenges. Finding a suitable site took three years, with the construction and installation almost exactly two years. And now we are fully open for business,” he announces, proudly.
But what earns this facility the claim of ‘most advanced in Europe’? “The individual systems and machines employed at Wellingborough are the latest but otherwise are widely available, industry standard,” explained Simon. “But what makes the plant and its processes so advanced is the way that our engineers have configured everything, the fine tuning and how everything works together. Our engineers are amongst the most experienced in the world and we have distilled all of this expertise into Wellingborough.”
That the technology employed at the VEKA Recycling plant is so advanced is simply a bi-product of building something that will achieve its purpose as efficiently as possible. And this, says Simon, is already being achieved: “The process of recycling end-of-life as well as virgin offcuts of PVC-U windows and profiles, is to break them down so they may be re-manufactured as new products, including new window profiles of course, but a range of other valuable products. That is the nature of PVC-U. It is and must be regarded as a hugely valuable commodity.
“The Wellingborough plant takes old PVC-U window frames that, only with the glass removed, are craned onto our conveyors just as they are collected from our installer and fabricator partners,” says Simon. “And by the end of what is a complex series of processes that have all been tied together beautifully, we have the component parts – aluminium, steel and of course, pellets of PVC-U polymer – all ready to be manufactured into something highly valuable again. And without any loss of quality,” he adds proudly.
The quality of the PVC-U pellet is paramount to VEKA Recycling’s mission, insists Simon: “We want the plastics industry, the companies that we supply the material to, to consider the material they take from us as being of the highest possible quality, that VEKA Recycling operates to international standards in every aspect of our operations; and for us to be separated from the ‘cowboy’ recyclers that continue to operate, although increasingly in the shadows.”
However advanced is the VEKA Recycling facility, the company’s supply partners remain a crucial part of the company’s operations: “The process begins with the installers and fabricators that choose to recycle the material they collect as part of their day to day working cycles,” adds Simon. “And we believe that we offer the best solution to them by providing a guaranteed audit trail for the material that we collect from them; by using VEKA Recycling, they can be sure that the material will be dealt with legally and ethically. The risks of using uncertified waste collectors are enormous,” emphasises Simon.
“And as homeowners become increasingly aware of the environment and the impact they are having on it, assuring them that their old windows will be turned into brand new products within weeks of them being removed from their homes, is a very positive sales message and may actually secure a sale over competitors that are unable to provide such assurance.”
VEKA Recycling’s new plant therefore heralds a new era for recycling of PVC-U, one in which the concept, as well as the process, may be significantly advanced. And in that, almost 30 years on from the creation of the first PVC-U plant in Europe, Heinrich Laumann’s vision is greatly extended and indeed, rewarded.