The movement against the use of plastic, especially single use plastics, isn’t going to go away. It’s only going to become stronger. As I have mentioned before programmes such as the BBC’s Blue Planet and the major campaigning by Sky News and their Ocean Rescue series has put into vivid perspective the vast damage single use plastics are doing to our little world. And lets be clear, this is a good thing. We have been ruining our environment for far too long.

However, we need balance. Plastic remains a useful material for all sorts of uses, perhaps not so much food in many cases, but most certainly in the building industry, and that means windows and doors. They provide a warm, maintenance free way of upgrading someone’s home that can last decades. Perhaps the early stuff was dross, but things have improved and continue to dominate the residential market.

That being said, there is a swing coming, and it’s timber and aluminium that stand to gain the most.

Plastic becoming a dirty word

Modern media, including social media, helps springboard trends and social change far faster than they used to. When things go viral and start to trend, it’s not long before it starts to break into the mainstream. That is what is happening now with plastics, almost to the point where it is becoming a dirty word.

There will be two big winners from this movement in our industry and it will be the timber and aluminium sectors. There is already a renaissance with these two materials ongoing. All that will happen is the anti-plastic movement will boost this further.

You can also guarantee that the timber and aluminium window and door sectors will jump on this in a big way. And why wouldn’t they? They both have ground to make up. Timber and aluminium windows and doors are back in fashion. There are big green and environmental USPs to both. It’s also worth noting that in the past the timber part of the window industry has been quite aggressive when taking on PVCu and promoting the use of timber in the fenestration industry. I expect it won’t be long until we see the same sort of thing crop up again.

The PVCu industry though has to be on it’s toes. PVCu is not a dirty word, it remains a very useful, vital even, building material that so much of UK infrastructure relies on.

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Remembering the “u”

Lets not underestimate the seriousness of what is coming. The anti-plastic movement is going to fundamentally change how we produce, consume and reuse anything that is plastic. Again, quite rightly. But what we cannot allow that to do is to decimate whole sectors and economies at the same time. That would be counter-productive and cause untold damage to thousands of companies and tens of thousands of jobs.

From a PVCu window and door industry perspective, it has to be ready for a number of things. First, to counter any negative press from other parts of the industry with accurate information and stats which prove the use of it’s material. Also, it’s probably worth pointing out that the “u” in PVCu stands for un-plasticised! The timber industry has form when it comes to this sort of thing.

Second, it has to be very visible to the general public online. This will be the first battleground when it comes to defending it’s stance in the window industry, and if it’s going to have any chance of stemming the negative flow, then it has to be done online. It would also help if it reached out to some of the mainstream media to try and communicate the positives of the products over the morning news shows.

Third, it has to find ways, and rapidly, to make the whole PVCu supply chain much more sustainable. That means massively increasing recycling capacity, making factories much more energy and process efficient, cutting back on single use plastics where other more environmentally friendly substitutes can be used and many other things. The PVCu sector has to show that it’s capable of change, that PVCu can play it’s part in a greener world.

If however it doesn’t do any of the above or anything else, and it’s response is weak, then we can fully expect the anti-plastic movement to start doing quick damage. We are already seeing the strife the nationals are in right now. If this takes hold then it could be the final nail in the coffin for some of our biggest retail firms.

Keep your eyes peeled in the next couple of weeks. There are a number of us with irons in the fire with a view to turbocharging the environmental aspects of our industry and to give it a push.

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