25 years of recycling

With growing consumer awareness of the impact that plastic can have on our natural environment, there’s no doubt that the industry is starting to step up and address this, with recycled PVCU systems and products being developed and launched. Martin Thurley, managing director at Liniar, explains how HL Plastics has been recycling all of its scrap PVCU and using it within its outdoor ranges for the last 25 years.

We applaud the current push towards recycling that we’re seeing in the trade press at the moment, and can see this will only increase – not only to protect our planet, but for commercial reasons too.

We know PVCU waste can be a real problem for the environment if not disposed of correctly. Therefore, finding new ways to use any waste generated through the manufacturing process is always going to be a winner. With the continuing volatility of raw material prices, it also makes commercial sense to look at recycling PVCU back into our products where we can.

That’s one of the reasons we developed our outdoor range in 1993. Our scrap levels have always been exceedingly low (they currently run at less than 3%) but there would still have been a significant amount of PVCU to send to landfill unless we used it in other ways.

Our factory in Denby has a purpose-built recycling plant where all scrap is taken and re-granulated, ready to create the products in our outdoor range. Liniar’s plastic piling is made from 100% recycled PVCU materials, and our deckboards and fencing range are made from part-recycled PVCU, with a virgin skin applied on the surface of each for cosmetic appearance.

Interestingly, our biggest customers for piling are environmental organisations such as the National Trust, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and the Environment Agency. They love the product as it’s lighter to carry than traditional timber or steel piles, so can be carried to site by hand and installed manually – and it will never rust or rot.

They use it to facilitate the re-wetting of moorlands to promote the growth of diverse species, and also to slow the flow of water into reservoirs. The latter saves money for water utility companies, which would otherwise have had to filter out peat from fast flowing water.

Once it’s in place, Liniar’s recycled plastic piling will do its job year after year. And of course, it’s more cost effective for them too.

Our part-recycled decking range has seen tremendous success – particularly since we began offering it in kit format last year. This growth, combined with tight operational efficiencies, means demand is outstripping supply of the recycled PVCU we produce in house.

Our next step is to start working with our customers to bring back the scrap Liniar lead-free PVCU off-cuts generated at the fabrication stage, and investing in even better recycling facilities to process it. This is a win/win: our customers won’t have to pay for expensive waste disposal, and we can continue to feed more recycled materials into our outdoor range. It’s very early days but initial feedback is really positive.

Continually rising raw material costs mean systems companies have to work harder and smarter than ever to absorb costs, maintain efficiencies and remain highly competitive.

In line with the rest of the industry, we’ve had no option but to notify customers of a price increase. However, this was only after extensive work internally to make sure we’re operating as efficiently as possible – we’ve been able to pass on less than a third of the levels of increase we’ve been hit with.

Our constant investment in the latest energy efficient machinery not only saves energy costs, but means our overall Specific Energy Consumption (SEC) is a fantastic 60% ahead of the target for our site, and we’re creating a CO2 surplus of thousands of tonnes.

These efficiencies, combined with 25 years of recycling our waste, mean we’re already in a great position to minimise the impact our operations have on the environment. The fact our products can also be recycled again at the end of their useful life means our lead-free PVCU need never end up in landfill.

And our new customer recycling initiative will only serve to improve our environmental credentials even further.