If 2020 is going to be about anything, its going to be about sustainability. Assuming that is Boris gets his majority and the first part of Brexit is finally shoved over the line.

You can see the momentum building already for it. Across all sectors, whether its tech, cars, travel, manufacturing, food or services, companies and entire industries are working hard to show us that they are becoming more sustainable and earth-friendly.

The fenestration industry has its own part to play, and the entire supply chain simply has to be on board with it.

No more excuses

Let me be blunt, it does not matter whether you believe sustainability is a sexy subject or not. It does not matter whether you think recycling old frames is worth it or not. It does not matter whether you think recycled PVCu is better than virgin material. Our industry has run out of time if it thinks it can put off major reforms and investment in becoming a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly industry. Society as a whole is quickly moving to make changes to become more sustainable, and our industry has to be part of that change.

Certain companies are already doing big things when it comes to things like recycling. I have already mentioned in previous posts companies like Camden Group, Eurocell, Deceuninck etc who are already big on recycling post consumer waste. So far though, the lead has been taken by the systems companies. They are the ones who have built the big recycling centres, the ones who offer to pick up old frames from fabricators and installers. Its an admirable effort, but the cause cannot be carried by the systems companies alone. The share of the effort must be taken up by the entire fabrication and installation parts of the supply chain too.

Ultimately, it is the public who will judge as to whether our industry is doing enough to become truly sustainable and carbon neutral. It is the PVCu sector though that stands to take the biggest hit if the public changes their attitude towards us. Although not actually plastics, PVCu is already being grouped in with other single-use plastics which already have a very negative image. We need to be very active and very vocal to ensure the right information about our product is out there for the public to learn.

Beyond recycling

Much is made of the efforts to recycle post-consumer frames. Indeed, it is one of the major pillars of a sustainable fenestration sector. But its not the only pillar. There is much to do in many other areas which will help our industry become kinder to our environment.

We need to look at the carbon footprint our industry creates when producing it’s products. That means looking at things like energy consumption. Do factories use renewable energy to power their machinery and plants? Could they install solar panels on their roofs? Could they source their energy from energy suppliers that use renewable sources, like Ovo for example? Are they part of a carbon offset scheme which aims to cancel out emissions caused by production? Can they switch to electric or at least hybrid vehicles to transport their goods? How much recycling do they do with their own waste on site? All these are areas where fabricators and other types of suppliers could look to reduce their carbon emissions.

Installers have a part to play as well. They can ensure all their post-consumer waste is put to good use, whether its timber, aluminium, steel or PVCu. All can be reused once recycled. They can look to sell products that are at least partly recycled or fully recycled. They can make sure they recycle as much as they can in what is produced from their offices, paper, card, plastic wraping, foam protectors etc. They too can make sure their energy supplier is one that uses renewable energy. They can choose to take part in carbon-offset schemes to try to neutralise their own footprint.

There’s a ton of extra things we can all do, those ideas above are just a few things that we can do as a sector to help reduce our emissions. Some of it is simple, some if it requires investment and a bit of hard work. But we have run out of time to keep kicking the can down the road. Changes must happen now.

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Being clear on PVCu

As I have mentioned, PVCu has the most to lose should the public change it’s mind on the material. But the realities versus the myths about the product are outweighed, and we need to put that right.

For example, we know thanks to scientific research that PVCu can be recycled up to ten times. If we squeeze out 35 years of use in each cycle, that means the PVCu in existence now can last another 300+ years, which is remarkable.

We also know that PVCu gets better each time it is recycled. I learned that on a visit to the Deceuninck recycling facility in Belgium. They showed a group of us the entire process from start to finish and explained that each time the PVCu goes through the recycling process it actually becomes more pure as more inpurities are taken out via the recycling process. So, the PVCu in circulation in a couple of hundred years time will actually be better than what we have now. If that doesn’t help dispell the negative image of recycled PVCu then I don’t know what will.

We know its the most thermally efficient option. We know its more affordable than a lot of aluminium and timber options. We know its not plastic and therefore should not be grouped with single-use plastics. There are a lot of advantages to it as a building material and should not be discarded.

2020 is going to be a year where we are all going to be encouraged to do what we can to help address the dire state of the climate and planet. It is the industry’s social responsibility to be part of that change. There’s a huge opportunity to be presented during that change, one that we should embrace with open arms.

About DGB E.C.O

Our industry, as with all other industries, sectors and societies all over the world are having to come to terms with climate change. Our production, consumption and transportation of all goods and services are impacting the health of the planet and all that live on it. Fenestration has its part to play along with all others. But where there is challenge, there is opportunity. With DGB E.C.O I want to shine a light on the efforts being made across the sector to be more sustainable and planet-friendly. I also want to demonstrate that in recycling and post-consumer waste, there is a whole new industry being born out of our already long established one.

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