|By John Warren, Epwin Group
The first ever commercial installation of PVC-U windows manufactured from 98 per cent recycled content was completed by the Epwin Group, a UK based extruder and window fabricator, last year marking the beginning of a new era in PVC-U building product sustainability.
The PVC-U window industry continues to encourage recycling and the public acceptance of recycled products. Having promoted and pushed PVC-U sustainability, launching a wide range of recycled component products, it has taken a significant stride forward, manufacturing and completing a commercial window installation using profile made from virtually 100 per cent recycled material.
The recycled profile, a first for the sector, was extruded by Epwin Group systems company, Profile 22, which along with its sister company Dekura UK, has long been at the forefront of innovation and sustainability in the UK PVC-U window and building technology.
The product is laminated to ensure colour consistency and achieves a total recycled content of 98 per cent. Manufactured and installed in a social housing project in Manchester, England, the installation, which was a true closed loop process, is a first for the window industry and the social housing sector, claiming the Best Product category at the UK National Recycling Awards 2009.
“Although we had had the technology to produce a high recycled content product for more than seven years, it was the first time that the commercial climate had been right to deliver it. It was a first for us, first for the industry and has proved an effective tool in showing external audiences just how far the PVC-U building products industry has moved forward”, says David Wrigley, managing director, Epwin Group Extrusions Division.
The Dekura service is unique in the UK, able to offer a post-consumer end of life recycling service with full cycle traceability on all of the material that it collects. This allows social housing providers and contractors to follow old material through the recycling process, providing demonstrable and auditable trail that can be used to support the site waste management planning process.
Wrigley argues that it’s the downstream activity that is now the Group’s greatest focus. “Whatever business might want to claim about its commitments to the environment, ultimately the economics need also to be sustainable.
“For that reason we see downstream integration as of paramount importance because that’s where we and the industry achieve added value. As a consequence, our efforts as a Group are focussed on designing products that deliver dual commercial and environmental benefits.
“These are products that can be manufactured more efficiently, that perform better in life and which can be recycled more easily as one life cycle finishes and the next begins.”
Based on figures from Recovinyl the carbon footprint of the profile extruded in the Manchester project was just six per cent of that of virgin material. And even after the application of a thin white wood grain foil – applied to ensure colour uniformity and weather performance – it still delivered a significant CO2 savings.
In a similar vein Swish Building Products - also an Epwin Group business - has launched a new recycled rainwater system. Bringing thousands of tons of end of life material back into use the rainwater and guttering system is manufactured from 84 per cent recycled material which produces 70 per cent less CO2 than would be created in manufacture from virgin material.
“But it’s not necessarily the headline products that are delivering the biggest financial wins or changes” says Wrigley. “Industry is only going to buy-in to sustainability if it makes commercial sense to do so.”
He continues: “Our composite recycled PVC reinforcement from Profile 22 is a case in point, illustrating how efficiency and sustainability, not just environmentally but financially, must combine in product development.
“It replaces steel or aluminium reinforcements in the window manufacturing across the whole range of profiles. On the face of it appears a fairly simplistic concept - a simple window reinforcement - but what it represents and the efficiency that it delivers, both in manufacturing and the use phase, make it such an important product for the industry.
“Raw material prices, whether steel, aluminium or oil for that matter are increasing. In tapping into a comparatively abundant material – waste PVC-U – we’re able to insulate ourselves and our customers from the bigger price increases that will be inevitable in the future”,
Wrigley concludes: “On a very fundamental level, the recycling of PVC-U is absolutely necessary if we as an industry are going to meet regulatory requirements and to stave off challenges from other competitor material suppliers.
“Significant progress has been made - not just by us but by our colleagues in other PVC-U systems companies. We have the processes and technical innovations and we have the products, we must now ensure that the sustainability benefits of PVC and recycling are understood and demanded by our customers and the world in general.”
For more information on sustainable and energy efficient products from the Epwin Group visit www.epwin.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*David Wrigley is managing director for the Epwin Group’s extrusions division and founder member of PVC-U sustainability campaign, PVCaware.org and committee member of the British Plastics Federation.
FACTBOX: The Epwin Group – an overview
FACTBOX: 98 per cent recycled window – a UK first
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