PVC-U is one of fenestration’s biggest assets when it comes to sustainability, but only if it’s recycled responsibly, says VEKA Recycling’s MD, Simon Scholes.
From global collaborations such as COP26, to the relentless campaigning of individuals like Greta Thunberg, society, as a whole, is becoming increasingly concerned by climate change.
Efforts to protect the earth, and its flora and fauna, include an international drive to limit the impact of plastic waste on the environment, with the material largely falling out of favour with the public, certainly in the UK. As a result, many consumer-facing companies have found alternatives when it comes to packaging, and even the products they offer, because morals and ethics aside, sustainability sells.
When it comes to fenestration, it is clear there is more to be done to educate homeowners on the virtues of PVC-U. Too many remain unaware that the material used to make their windows and doors, unlike the single-use plastic polluting our oceans, is a valuable resource that can be recycled many times over.
The knowledge that, as part of a new window or door installation, the old PVC-U frames will be removed from a home, transported to a specialist recycling facility and reprocessed to eventually create brand new products that can be recycled again at the end of their lives, is an attractive proposition for the eco-conscious consumer.
Recycling PVC-U frames diverts them from landfill and reduces the amount of virgin material used in the manufacture of fenestration products. This not only reduces carbon emissions. Remanufacturing a product to extend its service life by decades, or even centuries, also makes PVC-U arguably one of the most sustainable building product materials on the planet.
In order to make the most of this significant selling point, it is crucial that installers use credible and authentic recycling companies – not only to collect old frames but also to process them. After all, the sustainable potential of PVC-U cannot be achieved if it is not recycled and repurposed properly.
Some waste removal companies advertising ‘recycling’ services may only have the infrastructure to collect post-consumer product or waste materials. This means these materials may be passed on to a third-party for processing, diluting accountability. While an installer may believe, in good faith, that the products have been taken away to be recycled, once they have been passed on to a third-party, there is often no way of knowing their true fate.
If window and door waste is not disposed of lawfully, the homeowner is liable for prosecution and for this reason, using an installer that is associated with a trusted waste disposal or recycling company is a must for homeowners’ peace of mind.
VEKA Recycling collects and processes post-consumer frames at its specialist PVC-U window and door frame recycling site in Wellingborough, and is therefore able to guarantee that recycling standards and legal guidelines will be upheld at every stage.
As a result, installers who use VEKA Recycling’s services are able to demonstrate their commitment to responsible recycling to their homeowner customers, irradicating any fear of prosecution due to incorrect or illegal disposal.
But it’s not just installers who can benefit from responsible recycling. Fabricators should also ensure they employ the services of a trusted recycling specialist when it comes to the processing of off-cuts and flawed frames. Not only as a selling point for them, but to ensure that the whole supply chain is doing its bit to minimise environmental damage and ensure that material does not go to waste. And considering the polymer shortages in recent months, the preservation of such a valuable resource is perhaps more important now than ever.
VEKA Recycling’s Wellingborough plant – the most advanced in Europe – became fully operational last year, and with other fenestration brands continuing to invest millions of pounds in recycling facilities in the UK, the commercial value of PVC-U is clear. But it’s time the focus shifted away from pounds and pence.
Over the decades, PVC-U windows and doors have been sold overwhelmingly on price, backed up by advances in performance and aesthetics in recent years. But as society shifts towards a greener agenda, the time has come to re-market PVC-U as the highly effective and sustainable framing material that it can be.
If recycled responsibly, PVC-U can meet its full potential as the ultimate eco-friendly fenestration material and reap the associated rewards, but only by using the right channels can we, as an industry, ensure this is the case. We all have a role to play.