Eurocell Has Its Say Talking Recycling

8 January 2007

During the next year we are likely to see increasing pressure on our industry to improve recycling levels. Already there have been many advances made in this area by our industry with dedicated recycling facilities in many operations. The added incentive to improve recycling levels is that everyone benefits through savings on disposal costs in addition to finding new uses for material that would otherwise end up in landfill.PVC-U is not usually a material associated with recycling but the steps already taken by our industry mean that we are beginning to change this perception. Without a doubt, it is a low maintenance material that requires no painting and offers longevity, however some people still mistakenly believe that it is not possible to recycle PVC-U.

PVC-U has been used extensively in a range of construction products for over half a century and its strong, durable and lightweight properties make it ideal for window and door profiles. When used in windows and doors, un-plasticised PVC-U is one of the most rigid polymers at normal ambient temperature and shows little deterioration after many years of service. This is just one of the reasons why it has become such a popular choice, offering the building sector a cost effective low maintenance solution.

Suppliers within the PVC-U industry know they have a superb material in terms of its thermal performance, longevity and maintenance but its perception in terms of a positive environmental choice still needs addressing. In the future, our whole industry will therefore need to continue investing a large amount of resources into improving its recyclability.The starting point for improving recycling levels was always going to be the waste material generated during the manufacturing process. There is also much development work going into the recycling of the frames when they are replaced on site. However, the focus on the production side meant that in addition to improving the environmental aspect we were able to manage our costs to fabricators at a time when raw materials were spiralling in price.

Forward thinking operators in the PVC-U industry have already implemented ISO14001, the internationally recognised environmental standard. By taking this a step further we have set up teams within our business that focus purely on improving the environmental areas of our operations even further and a major area of this is in recycling.

Interestingly, the legislative side of the industry in the form of Buildings Regulations provided us with the catalyst to make our first major breakthrough in recycling. This is because the improvements needed in the latest Approved Document L meant that many new builds, along with refurbishments, now require cavity closers because it aids compliance with air tightness and robust detailing. The updating of the regulations therefore prompted us to focus on improving our existing cavity closer and also to attempt to use waste polymer to extrude this item. The result is that we have just launched our new recycled cavity closer that is made from 100 per cent recycled material.

At the outset we considered that this would be the ideal outcome as cavity closers improve air tightness, minimising heat loss between the jambs and cills and, because it is made from recycled material, it is an ideal environmental choice. For us it was a major breakthrough when we finally developed a method of using waste polymer to produce the cavity closer and, with the addition of expanded polystyrene, we were able to improve the thermal performance even further. Pre-inserting the polystyrene insulation in the factory means that it is quicker and easier to fit the closer on-site, giving installers productivity improvements. The fact that the cavity closer is made from recycled material makes it a product perfect for fabricators selling into new build developments and it is very satisfying to find that a recycled product also helps improve a dwelling’s thermal performance.

Many of our fabricators are now aware of the Code for Sustainable Homes which is soon to be mandatory for private developments and lays down the roadmap to achieving zero carbon homes by 2016. New products, such as our recycled cavity closer, create more thermally efficient dwellings and so play a fundamental part in achieving a higher star rating on the Code. This ultimately leads to more valuable homes for the developer and a better return on their investment.

The cavity closer is something we are very proud of as it is our first product to be made from 100 per cent recycled material. This is a great way to reduce the amount of waste generated by the manufacturing process which also improves the environmental credentials of our mainstream window profile extrusions. The simple fact is that this cavity closer has helped dramatically to reduce the amount of waste generated in our factory. The added advantage is that because it helps reduce raw material usage it keeps cost increases to a minimum which is another important factor to ensure good value for our customers and specifiers.The cavity closer is now helping our fabricators who supply to the new build sector to demonstrate a sustainable side to their offer. Many developers and specifiers are increasingly looking for suppliers that can offer these environmental credentials which is why we are already developing new ways of using our waste material.

Looking to the future, our industry will need to continue developing new products from recycled material to help meet the latest building regulations. The cavity closer produced from recycled polymer is just the start of a move towards more environmentally friendly PVC-U products that are beginning to change the perception of our industry.

For more information contact Eurocell on 0300 333 6525 or fill in our contact form here.

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