Reality versus the hype
David Thornton, chairman of The Window Company (Contracts), asks whether the reality of recycling in PVCU actually lives up to the hype.
If you’re working in the commercial sector, as we are, then you’re under a whole raft of obligations when it comes to recycling. We’re legally required to handle and dispose of waste safely and responsibly, and public sector clients increasingly want us to demonstrate new ways in which we’re becoming more environmentally sustainable.
We don’t just need to be doing the right thing, but we need to be seen to be doing it as well.
The big area of focus for us currently is PVCU recycling, which has long lagged behind timber and aluminium, but which is now making concerted efforts to catch up. If you have a look online or glance through the trade magazines, you would think that our task would be fairly easy.
We hear an awful lot of noise from the various systems houses about their closed loop recycling policies and their commitment to partnering with businesses like ours to recover and recycle our waste. The theory makes perfect sense: they collect our old PVCU, recycle it at their facilities, and turn it into new PVCU windows or other extruded plastic products. Our old frames never go anywhere near to landfill and we get access to new products with all the green credentials that our commercial customers really like.
Big investments in recycling have been made by the likes of Eurocell and Rehau in recent years, in addition to what Veka has long been doing.
However, in our experience the reality still does not quite live up to the hype. I’m not criticising anyone’s intent or desire to do the right thing, I’m just reporting how disappointed we are so far with the efficiency of the service we are being offered.
We had long been paying for recycling facilities on the sites where we work and at our own premises in Chelmsford but, more recently, we have moved away from that, in part because we believe that we are the ones who should be being paid for the valuable waste which we are generating.
We have also begun to question how environmentally sustainable it actually is to ship waste from the UK to be recycled overseas when it could be recycled here with a much lower carbon footprint.
The biggest problem for us though is that we have so far not been able to find a systems company that can offer us the frequency, regularity or reliability of collections that we need. Typically, we fit upwards of 500 frames per week so, if most of these are replacements, then you can see our demand for waste collection is high.
We find ourselves caught in what seems like a fairly ridiculous situation where the systems companies, who are prepared to pay for our waste, simply don’t seem to have the structures or resources in place in order to be able to collect it in time.
As a result, we have turned to using local waste contractors from outside the industry who are paying us for our waste and offering us the regular collection service we need from our sites and from our yard.
I think my views and our experiences are probably shared by many other businesses. We want to do the right thing, but the current set up does not easily allow for that. The PVCU industry is certainly making all the right noises about recycling and putting investment into its facilities but so far we are not really seeing the benefits.