A New Frame of Mind

3 February 2015

Here, Chris Coxon, Head of Marketing at Eurocell, explains why the perception of post-consumer recycling is changing as local authorities look to optimise the sustainability and energy efficiency of their housing refurbishments.

“As housing providers explore ways to improve the energy efficiency of their properties they are choosing to replace windows and doors with products that offer ever lower U values. As well as making the building more thermally efficient, a select few PVC-U profile systems are now made using post-consumer recycled material, which helps minimise a building’s carbon footprint and provides a method of dealing with the end-of-life original PVC-U frames.

We work with a number of local authorities to provide them with a closed-loop recycling solution. Closed-loop is where end of life frames are removed from properties undergoing refurbishment and returned to a recycling facility. This recycled material is then used to make new, highly energy efficient window and door products that are fitted back into the same properties from which the old frames were removed. This 360 degree solution not only means residents benefit from more thermally efficient windows, but it significantly reduces the carbon footprint of the whole refurbishment programme by re-using material that would have ended up in land fill.

Nationwide Windows, a Eurocell fabricator based in Rugby, has been providing Nottingham City Homes with this kind of closed-loop recycling solution on its Secure Warm Modern Programme for a number of years.

On this project, end-of-life PVC-U from the old window frames are returned to our recycling facility in Derbyshire for making into new energy efficient window products. These are then installed back into the same properties from which the end-of-life frames were removed. In this case, the recycled material was used to create an A-rated specification that is still within the original tendered rate for an E-rated window. This project has set the benchmark for ways in which local authorities can achieve better value and demonstrate sustainable use of materials on their housing refurbishment programmes.

Investment in our recycling facility means that we can process up to 12,000 frames per week and are we are able to work with local authorities and their nominated contractors to provide a ‘closed loop’ solution. We are currently the only company in the UK to operate a large-scale complete recycling facility of this type. Investing in the UK was important to us as it minimises the carbon footprint, compared to carrying out the recycling process in mainland Europe
Ultimately, it is the residents that benefit from these kinds of value added post-consumer recycling advances. For example, Nottingham City Homes has calculated that fitting the ‘A’ rated windows, along with replacement doors, will reduce current carbon emissions across its portfolio by around three million kilograms each year, helping residents save an average of £80 - £100 per household on their annual fuel bills in the process.

Designed in energy efficiency

One of the reasons we developed our new Modus window and door system was because it gave us the opportunity to completely re-design the frame so that it utilised more post-consumer recycled material. This is important as more first generation PVC-U frames will need replacing over the next decade, especially as both glass and frame performance have advanced significantly in recent years. Made from 50%* post-consumer recycled PVC-U as standard, or 100% as an option, Modus provides local authorities with a sustainable method of dealing with the many hundreds’ of thousands of windows that will at some stage require replacement.

We were able to incorporate a greater proportion of recycled material in our new profile by utilising cutting edge dual material extrusion technology (DMET), which layers post-consumer recycled and ‘virgin’ material simultaneously with high precision. The recycled material is concentrated in the central core of the window profiles, where it is completely invisible in an installed window or door.

Aside from incorporating more recycled material, the 75mm multi-chamber profile delivers optimum energy efficiency. This profile design means that it can achieve U-values of 0.8 or even 0.7, exceeding Passive Haus standards.

It is widely recognized that poorly performing windows can significantly add to a home’s energy requirements and therefore the overall lifetime operating costs of that building.  With 15-20 percent of energy lost through the windows this area is crucial to overall efficiency and poorly specified products may lead to substantial loss of energy over the years.

Post-consumer recycling of PVC-U is already playing an increasingly important role in addressing these issues and in doing so will continue to shape the sustainability of the UK’s 20 million-plus homes. Suppliers that invest in UK-based recycling facilities and new products that use this material are therefore providing local authorities with the ability to turn an ordinary refurbishment programme it into something extraordinary.”

To find out more about closed-loop recycling at Eurocell, call the Eurocell customer services team directly on: 0300 333 6525.

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