The other day I wrote about how the adoption of electric cars would cause issues for the fenestration sector. To catch up on that story click here. I also explored the subject of recycling and recycled materials and how they are the most readily available solution to increase the sustainability of how we operate as a sector.
We have moved beyond the point of debating the merits of using recycled materials. We have run out of time, and systems companies are already steadily increasing the amount of recycled materials in their products.
Millions upon millions out of the ground
Systems companies have been leading the way when it comes to evolving how our sector becomes more environmentally friendly. Some of the leading systems companies recognised that the future was very much in the world of recycled products and invested heavily years ago in huge facilities both in the UK and in Europe to collect, process, break down and re-produce PVCu to be turned into new windows and doors. Through scientific research, we now know that PVC can go through the recycling process up to ten times, which given an assumptive 30-year life cycle each time, gives PVCu 300 years as a building product and is kept out of the ground.
I spoke to the team at Deceuninck recently to see if they could give me some figures on their recycling in 2020 and the numbers are impressive:
I was lucky enough to tour their recycling facility in Diksmuide in Belgium a couple of years ago and it was an impressive operation. A very large facility, constantly operating at high capacity, but with surprisingly fewer staff than I would have imagined would have been needed. The facility is automated in many areas so doesn’t require a huge amount of people to run it. Whilst I was there I was shown a demo about their end goal of achieving a 100% closed-loop manufacturing process. Essentially, everything going out coming back into the facility to be broken down and turned into new product once again, all without the need for virgin materials. It would take out a huge amount of carbon from the ecosystem, rid us of the need to produce virgin materials with high carbon footprints and could even help reduce lead times and improve the image of the industry.
Those 22,000 tons of PVCu are now in circulation in new PVCu products now being used in fenestration and other building sectors. The equivalent of 1.1m frames NOT going into the ground to take 1000 years or more to decompose.
This is all out of one facility. Other systems companies, such as VEKA, Eurocell, Liniar and others also have large recycling facilities here in the UK and in Europe. Also keeping millions of frames out of the ground and going back into the production of new PVCu products. The reality is that more and more recycled content is already filtering into the supply chain as each year passes. More facilities to recycle are coming online, with existing ones processing increasing amounts year on year. The transition to fully recycled systems has already started. We’re on that path now.
As the title suggests, its time to embrace it and all the advantages it comes with. We’re already selling recycled product whether you realise it or not, and with the world seeking to go carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner, the decision is going to be taken out of our hands anyway.
Thank you to Deceuninck for providing 2020 data to contribute to this article.
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