PVCu recycling has been around in the industry for a few years now. Some post consumer waste goes towards being made into things such as insulation and other similar things. Some post consumer waste goes back into making new PVCu frames. 

So what direction does the industry need to take when it becomes too expensive and over-resourceful to make PVCu from oil?

This is a question that may need to be answered quite soon. The price of oil over the next 5 years is only going to go up, which will obviously have an impact on the cost of the polymers and in turn the PVCu raw material. I don’t think our industry could cope with many more increases right now. The way I see it there are two roads to go down.

The first would be produce the polymers we need from sustainable crops used for oil (more like the cooking kind). This would have a manufacturing advantage as we would be able to produce what we needed here, rather than import a lot of it from the Far East. Jobs will would be created and local economies would be boosted. The downside to this however is that there isn’t enough of the crops for this to fully sustain our £4 billion industry. And remember, PVC is used in a plethora of other industries, not just ours. The crops we have at the moment just won’t be able to meet the demand. Planting numerous amounts of new fields of the stuff isn’t a viable option either.

The second option then is to focus more on recycling the old PVC windows and doors we take out. More and more installations over the last few years have involved taking out old, tired PVC windows and doors. Rather than these going to landfill via our skip companies, these need to be taken to specialist recycling plants, preferably run and owned by the systems companies so that the right people with the right expertise can do this properly and as efficiently as possible. Installers then save lots on the cost of skips, landfill isn’t used as much and so the environment benefits. But what need to consider is the public’s appetite for ‘re-used’ windows. Some people don’t like the idea of used cars, so they buy new ones because they know there is far less a likelihood for things to go wrong. I know recycled windows go through a complete meltdown and are reproduced, but we would need to make sure that the public doesn’t get stuck with that ‘used’ and ‘cheap’ image. But then there is the problem of meeting the demand for the whole industry. We simply don’t recycle enough, or will probably never do so in the future, windows and doors to cope with the whole replacement and new build markets. And if our industry is to continue to grow, meeting that demand is going to become even harder. 

Therefore, we arrive at a problem. We have to position the industry ready for a time without oil. With these being probably the two most viable options right now to replace the need for oil, we have to come up with a way of effectively incorporating the two techniques to make that transition. If we can, then our manufacturing industry in this country could stand to benefit from billions of extra investment and massive job creation. If we could make sure that all this happens in this country, then we could also wean ourselves off the need for foreign imports.