2020 was supposed to be the year where we all focused on sustainability and climate change. Then COVID came and swamped every other issue on the planet. Rightly, we have had to focus most of our efforts on fighting that particular crisis, and with vaccines coming through, we all hope that by the end of next year we’re looking at COVID in the rearview mirror.

But whilst the pandemic has raged and lockdowns around the world have reduced emissions this year, it still hasn’t stopped 2020 being one of the top three warmest years on record for the planet. A demonstration of how susceptible our planet is to the emissions we’re creating.

As we look towards a new year, UK fenestration must play its part at all levels to help the UK work towards its climate change goals.

Out of time

As I was writing this, there was a new story breaking on the BBC website that explained how UK PM Boris Johnson is going to aim to cut the UK emissions by 68% by the end of 2030. That is a huge commitment, far larger than any other major developed nation. Right now the UK is running behind on its targets and won’t achieve net zero emissions by 2050. He is due to make this announcement at a virtual conference with other world leaders on December 12th. Words need to be followed by actions so I hope we’ll see legislation passed to make sure these commitments are set in stone.

If we are to reach a 68% reduction in emissions by the end of the decade then every sector in the UK is going to have to really step up to the mark and ramp up massively its efforts to reduce carbon footprints. That includes UK fenestration.

Over the last few years companies at the top of the supply chain have been investing heavily in the infrastructure and services required to help boost post-consumer PVCu recycling. Companies like Deceuninck, VEKA, REHAU, Eurocell, Liniar, Camden, Victorian Sliders and others have invested in high-quality recycling facilities to help process tens of thousands of tons of post-consumer PVCu, keeping it out of the ground and sending it back into the supply chain.

This is fantastic, but there is so much more to do. We have to make sure that all post-consumer frames end up at facilities like this. One frame that ends in the ground is a frame too many. Its a waste and only harms our environment. We have to stop thinking of post-consumer frames as something worthless, as they are the exact opposite. They’re an abundant commodity. A readily available mass of product that can be made back into new product without the use of anything new. Its the circular manufacturing process and if we are to help reach 68% reductions in emissions by the end of the decade then we have to adopt the circular mentality as soon as possible.

We are out of time to waste as the pace of climate change moves quicker than we can cope with.

Infrastructure investment

Most of the major companies at the top of the supply chain have the facilities to recycle millions of frames per year. Many are planning to expand their operations. But whilst the infrastructure is there at the top, we need further investment in infrastructure to make sure that all post-consumer frames get from installers to these recycling facilities. Lots of fabricators already recycle their own waste or send it to plants at systems companies, but its that link between installers and those recycling facilities that need to be made stronger.

Perhaps the easiest solution to ensure more frames get to these facilities is to create a much more extensive network where frames can be picked up and transported to the recycling centres. Installers are incredibly busy, so to ask them to send the frames themselves is a tough ask. I think there is room for a go-between to create a service which picks up post-consumer frames and takes them to be recycled. To help pay for it, installers could pay a charge to the company operating the service, but then receives a rebate from the systems companies for the materials they deposit. The systems companies save money by not having to do it themselves, and by having to use less virgin materials in their production of profile.

The use of existing materials to create new is a collective effort. But there are things individual businesses can do on their own to reduce their carbon footprint:

  • switch to electric vehicles
  • use products made from recycled materials
  • use an energy supplier who uses renewable energy
  • recycle all office waste such as paper, card, glass etc
  • install solar panels
  • install energy-efficient lighting
  • digitise processes

Everything we need to run our businesses more climate-friendly exists already. We simply have to commit to making those changes. To rely on others to do the hard miles for us isn’t enough. We all have to play our part if we are to help the UK as a whole to reach the new emissions goals announced by the PM.

This is what I want to the industry to focus on next year. We will all rightly be continuing to recover from the pandemic in 2021, but the message across the world right now is that we have to build back better. The pandemic has taught us that what we have is precious and that we have to look after our world much better than we have been. This is the duty of every person and company, including us.

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