Climate change is very much the focus right now. Iceland has laid a memorial to a glacier that no longer exists. The Amazon rainforest is being crippled by fires. We have had record heatwaves in the UK, Europe and the US. There are a number of crises in various places on the planet right now, and each industry, each sector and each of us as an individual has a part to play in trying to reverse the course we’re on.
Naturally, the fenestration industry has it’s part to play as well, and there are a number of companies who have really taken the lead on the sustainability front. This post is to highlight those who are leading the way.
I was kindly invited by the team at Deceuninck to go to Diksmuide (Belgium) in March of this year to take a tour of their huge €3million recycling plant. Its capacity of 20,000 tons makes it the largest plant of its kind in the region, with that capacity set to increase massively in the coming years as the demand for recycled products increases. This plant is adjacent to the 105,000 tons-per-year compounding factory.
When I went, I was amazed how at few people actually run the facility. Less than 50 (from memory), then again its a highly automated factory and doesn’t need so many people for it to operate.
They take old recycled materials not only from Europe, but from the UK as well, and it goes through the Diksmuide facility, coming out the other side as pellets ready to be extruded into brand new window and door products. Their product range is 100% recylable, so any of their own products they know can be easily recycled into new products. This is what is called a closed-loop, and ensures that no PVCu post-consumer waste ends up in the ground.
I have a more in-depth article going live in the near future which goes into more detail about the facts garnered from that trip, which are too many to mention here. But, what was clear was that Deceuninck fully understand the need to reduce waste as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Their plans for the plant in the coming years say as much.
Another systems company to really get the recycling bit between their teeth is Eurocell. For a long time they have been recycling post-consumer frames and have a facility in Derby and one in York.
In this video they explain what closed-loop manufacturing is, and how they kept one million windows from going into the ground last year:
22,000 frames per week is immense. Eurocell have been one of the leaders in the UK to understand and recognise that the future for our industry, at least the PVCu part of it, is going to be deeply rooted in its ability to recycle and reuse existing materials. Given the flow of social change right now, this is something our industry has to be getting across to the public as loudly as possible.
Another company who have been making strides in recycling is Camden Group. Based in Antrim in Northern Ireland, they recycle 50 tons per week of post consumer waste, which is more than 2500 tons per year.
This video shows the process in their factory:
The reason why they are on this list, is that their Inliten system is made from 80% recycled materials, which is one of the most sustainable systems in UK fenestration right now. Future legislation is only going to become more stringent on the materials we use in housing, and its likely that new laws will begin to dictate that products like windows and doors must be made from at least partly recycled materials. If so, Camden are already well placed to make the most of that.
Another systems company, but another major player in the recycling and sustainablity game. The VEKA Recycling initiative was born in the UK in 2007, after already being well established in Europe prior to then.
Based out of Northamptonshire in the UK, and with locations in Umwelttechnik in Germany and in France as well, as a group they manage to recycle 65,000 tons of post-consumer windows, doors and roller shutters, which is roughly equivalent to four million windows. Like Deceuninck, they collect post-consumer waste from all over Europe and bring it back to the various locations to begin the process of making new windows and doors.
This is one of the biggest operations of its kind there is right now, and given the road we are all now on, it may well be that they, as well as the others on this list, will have to expand their operations quickly in order to satisfy demand.
Of course there are other companies out there involved in the recycling of old windows and doors. However the companies mentioned here are some of the biggest and producing some of the largest quantities of recycled product and simply making the biggest deal about it. And thats perhaps the point. Our industry right now is about to face a huge social challenge in proving to the public that PVCu windows and doors are and can remain sustainable. Recycling, and demonstrating loudly about it is going to be vital to keep public opinion onside.
Moving forwards, I see the bigger companies swallowing up the smaller recycling outfits to be able to rapidly expand their operations. We saw something similar to that when Eurocell bought Ecoplas in 2018. This is a whole industry within an industry, and in the next five to ten years its going to explode with new, profitable opportunities for the whole sector.
Please leave suggestions for other companies making great strides in recycling via the comments section below!
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