Climate change response

By Martin Hitchin, chief executive of Rehau UK.

The 25th UN Climate Change Conference took place in December 2019 with a plea for business to do more to combat climate change. We at Rehau welcome the comments made at the conference, having taken this call to action seriously for many years.

The need for business to improve the sustainability of their manufacturing processes to benefit the environment is not news. However, it has been thrown into stark relief at the UN’s recent conference, and the term circular economy is now on everyone’s lips. More needs to be done and Rehau has taken this to heart long ago, having manufactured window profiles from old recycled PVC window material since 1988.

By implementing a closed material cycle, we have conserved natural resources and reduced CO2 emissions, with the percentage of profiles produced using recycled material rising from 25% to over 40% since 2014, and set to increase to 50% next year. We have done this because action is needed to preserve the planet for future generations.

To that end, we have set up a Europe-wide network to ensure over 70,000 tonnes of used PVC materials are recovered and funnelled into production via internal and external processing plants – approximately the weight of the 345m-long cruise ship Queen Mary II. Since the profiles are extruded from recyclable PVC material, they can pass through this cycle seven times.

We are also investing heavily in in-house and external recycling facilities to close material cycles, having spent over 65 million euros in the past few years. Beneficiaries of this investment include the Rehau Group’s two recycling companies Dekura and PVCR, and our Polish plant in Srem, all of which process large volumes of recyclable PVC and produce new window profiles.

These new profiles are then co-extruded from a mix of this recyclate and new material at our Wittmund, Srem, Blaenau and Morhange sites, with the internal recyclate content paired with Rehau’s HDF surface. Because we have optimised the recycling processes at all these sites, we have been awarded the renowned VinylPlus product label – the first and only window manufacturer to receive this certificate at all our European locations.

Finally, our sustainable window profiles marketed under the new Rehau EcoPuls label save around 90% in carbon emissions when compared to conventional profiles, due to the use of recycled material. This results in 97,000 tons of CO2 saved per year – approximately the same as a forest of 7,800,000 trees, which is roughly the size of Berlin. These EcoPuls windows are also highly energy efficient, combining reduced energy loss benefits with their sustainability credentials.

In summary, Rehau is committed to relieving the burden on our environment, and thoroughly agree with the message sent by the UN’s Climate Change Conference: manufacturers need to take bold, decisive action when it comes to improving sustainability, and initiatives that establish circular economies are a welcome first step. Indeed, companies could do worse than follow Rehau’s lead on this.