Sustainability and your bottom line

New studies show that retailers are missing out on increased revenues by not communicating the sustainability of their offer effectively, according to Ian Cocken, director of sales and marketing at Aluplast.

Plastics hit the headlines for the wrong reasons at the start of this year with the publication of research that showed we’re slowly poisoning our oceans with single-use plastics. It’s not just the obvious flotsam – plastic bags, food packaging and water bottles – which are causing the problem but also micro-granules, including those found in washing powders.

It places sustainability at the top of the political and social agenda and that represents risk and opportunity for the PVCU window industry.

The PVCU sector has stepped up its commitment to go green. According to the latest figures from Recovinyl, the industry’s recycling scheme, more than 120,392 tonnes of waste PVCU were recovered and recycled in 2016. That’s a 12% jump on the previous year and the equivalent of more than five million window frames.

It has, however, made less progress in communicating this to the homeowner, which is a missed opportunity. A consumer study by Unilever suggests that a third of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact. This means that an estimated €966 billion opportunity exists for retailers who make their sustainability credentials clear.

How we now use this recycled material is a more fundamental question. Profile performance is dependent on the strict control of its formulation and, by definition, recycled material is an unknown quantity.

If you don’t know the ratios of the formulation you can’t possibly predict how it’s going to perform in extremes of temperature. The differentiation between metal salts or stabilisers can be really very significant, and that’s something that is catching out some systems companies.

The strategy adopted by the industry has for the most part to put this material into standalone second-grade products, for example reinforcements.

The challenge is that where used in the substrate, recyclate can have a significant impact on surface gloss and consistency of finish and, because it’s unknown and variable, it can be very difficult to control.

Aluplast side-steps the challenges created in using recycled material by isolating it only in the core web of its product where dimensional stability is not critical. This is the approach applied to its core offer – the five chamber thermally efficient and calcium organic stabilised Ideal 70 ecotech, and Ideal 4000 systems.

The extrusion process uses pre- and post-extrusion product and post fabrication waste, plus known source post installation pelletised PVCU.

Two compound screw feeds then push recycled and virgin material simultaneously through the profile dye to create the profile while maintaining a distinct separation between the two. This separates and locks recycled material away from areas of the frame visible to the end-user or that perform a structural role, which means that Aluplast can guarantee surface and finish quality.

Recycled content is isolated and all surfaces are manufactured from virgin material –  there are no extrusion lines, there are no pits, it’s a premium finish.

With a choice of 24mm to optimum 44mm triple glazed options, the slim line systems also easily achieves a WER A+ rating with standard components and A++ with specific profiles and IGUs; sustainability is about more than recycled content but also the contribution product can make throughout its life.