The featured image above was a photo taken by me when I visited Jamaica for a couple of weeks at the end of June and early July. It is a stunning island and we stayed at an amazing resort. The photo was taken in the seafood restaurant as the sun was setting, the sea was quietly lapping, it was perfect.

Jamaica and it’s people are very lucky to have such a lush, clean, beautiful environment in which to live. So it saddened me when I watched a video from the BBC on Monday where the reporter showed absolutely enormous swathes of plastic and other garbage floating in the middle of the Caribbean sea. Having been there a number of times it moves me greatly to see such a perfect part of the world become ruined by our greed and lack of compassion for the very thing we live on.

It then got me to think about how the industry we all work in takes care of it’s environment, and it’s impacts on the environment both locally and on a wider scale. Other than the well known recycling facilities established by a number of systems companies in this country, I am not sure we’re doing much else.

Society is moving towards a de-carbonised future, and the window industry has to move in the same direction. Else, views like the one you see above will become a thing of the past.

Recycling has to be stepped up

Both Eurocell and VEKA are perhaps the two best known systems companies with dedicated recycling facilities for end of life PVCu windows and doors. The Eurocell plant in Derby is capable of recycling 12,000 frames per week. To their credit, their Modus window system is available in fully 100% recycled PVCu.

This however is not enough. As an industry we are going to have to wrap our heads around the idea that virgin PVCu is soon to be a commodity that has a limited life span. The resources and raw materials required to keep producing virgin PVCu is soon to fly up against the efforts society is stepping up on to create a greener way of living. Done well, recycled PVCu can be made into windows and doors once again. If we can stop old frames from simply being thrown into the standard waste system and being either shipped abroad or stuck in the ground, then surely recycled PVCu windows and doors are worth it?

The current efforts however are not enough. 12,000 frames per week at Eurocell sounds a lot, but when you consider our industry is worth nearly £5bn a year alone to the UK economy, this is a drop in the ocean. As an industry we have to step it up a gear or three. I would like to see every single systems company with a major base here in the UK set up their own dedicated high quality recycling centre, with the purpose to make new windows and doors out of the recycled materials. It needs to go further than that though.

I would like to see a network created by our industry, from installer right up to sysco level where post consumer waste can be transferred back to the start of the supply chain where it can be reconstituted into new PVCu window and door products. A service where installers can give their post consumer frames to their fabricators, and where fabricators can then pass that on to their systems companies.

This will take some investment, by most in the supply chain. But, it would create jobs too. Jobs needed to build the new facilities. Jobs needed to run the transport. Jobs needed to run the machines that do the recycling. Jobs needed to create the new PVCu window and door systems made from the recycled materials. In the long run it would be good for growth.

Recycling has such a massive part to play in all of this. But there is a whole world of other things to consider as an industry if we are to have a tangible effect on the carbon footprint we leave in doing our jobs.

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The smaller things

How we all run our businesses can make a difference both in our pockets and the wider environment. It’s the smaller things we can all do that when combined can start to make a big difference.

For example, those recycling plants I mentioned above. For companies thinking of building one, think about having them being run on renewable energy. Solar, wind, geo-thermal etc. It is possible now, the infrastructure and technology is there. Installers and fabricators could start to do the same. Solar panels are fairly cheap now compared even to just a few years ago. Why not give it a go?

But it’s the even smaller measures that can make a difference. For example, the wraps and protective tapes that come on every single frame. There is such a thing as biodegradable plastic. Instead of using standard plastics to wrap frames, why not switch to a more environmentally friendly option. So even if it ends up in the skip or landfill, it’s far less harmful than the standard plastics that take hundreds of years to break down.

How we run our offices is another area to look at. Do you provide your employees with facilities to separate everyday rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclables like we do at home with our bins? Do installers have access to a service where dedicated recycling companies can come take their post consumer frames of all types of materials away rather than putting them in the skip? Where does all the paper go? Could you use more email instead of paper? Are your offices using an energy supplier that uses renewable energy instead of fossil fuelled energy?

These may all seem trivial things on the surface. But the small changes we make in running our window and door companies all combine together to make a bigger difference and will start to reduce our industry’s impact on the environment. Of course there is far more than what I have mentioned already that needs to be looked at. Transport is one area. Use of ancillary materials is another. If we as an industry however removed our heads from the sand and really looked into the opportunities a renewable window and door industry could bring, perhaps we would be more motivated to do the right thing.

Ultimately, all of this boils down to the single most important issue, and that is the very place we live in. Every single person, every single company and every single industry, including ours, has an obligation to do the right thing. When we destroy the ecological habitats, when we use up all our finite resources, windows and doors will be pretty low on the list of priorities.

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