Paul Godwin Soapbox: 03/03/15

March 3rd, 2015 - Will

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PG CLose cropFor many years VAST PR handled the public relations for VEKA PLC. A very fine company and, when one looked beyond the day-to-day workings and products I cam to appreciate that it was an intriguing organisation too. The founder Herr Heinrich Laumann always impressed me with his vision and for looking at business in the longer term, something that is characterised in German industry and epitomised by VEKA.

An example of that vision was made when VEKA built a recycling facility for post consumer frames, those manufactured in all materials and not just PVC-U. I visited that plant twice over the years and could not help but be impressed. And, having been indoctrinated over the years into British Health & Safety etiquette, how relatively lax the rules are there. But I digress…

Herr Laumann – I believe he was still very much in charge at that time – went ahead with the project after his competitors, who agreed to create the facility as a joint venture, failed to proceed for whatever reasons and, fed up with the delays, he went ahead on his own. It was a giant leap but around twenty years on, not only is the plant at Behringen still ploughing on, others have been built in France and, on a slightly less comprehensive scale, in the UK.

Now we happen to have been appointed to deal with the PR for VEKA Recycling (we parted company with the PLC several years ago, quite amicably) but that is not the reason for this blog. Our new relationship has simply allowed me the opportunity to review the recycling sector once again. And I have been impressed to learn that VEKA Recycling UK is now a major player within the division, and actually responsible for the largest single market volume of post consumer frames within the VEKA Group.

I have a particular interest in this aspect of the UK window industry when, in league with John Warren the highly popular PRO for Epwin Group, we created PVC Aware, an exercise to light a fire under the somewhat complacent British Plastics Federation after its dismal representation of the British PVC-U window industry once again at Ecobuild. When one looks closer at PVC-U one can appreciate that, used thoughtfully and recycled repeatedly as this highly versatile material is capable of, it has a minimal impact on the planet when its full life cycle capabilities are exploited. In those days the PVC exhibitors at Ecobuild might as well have suffered from ebola.

PVC Aware virtually disappeared again after the point was made and it was handed over to the BPF. But since those days I am delighted to observe that, whilst the British window industry doesn’t wholeheartedly and willingly recycle its old frames (there remain limitations on the economics of far-flung collection), we are now light years ahead of where we were, just 10 years or so ago.

Rather than being a far outpost of the German PVC-U window industry, the UK is a leader and, having successfully and largely disgorged itself of the cowboys that once polluted the business (it’s too much like hard work now!) we are setting the standards. More extruders should re-use the recycled pellet – we are still not entirely over the fear of homeowner rejection of non-virgin PVC-U – to truly qualify the material as sustainable, but we are well on our way. In Britain at least.

– Paul Godwin

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