Published On: Thu, Jan 30th, 2020

There is no escaping sustainability issues

The window industry needs to deliver on the issue of sustainability
to satisfy the demands of future customers says David Lomax

Five years ago I was sat in a marque at a trade fabricator’s event for its installer and retail customers. Being a keen environmentalist I was eager to open discussions around the topic of re-cycling and specifically the re-cycling of PVC-U windows – the host was a fabricator of PVC-U windows. Having researched the market for PVC-U windows I was aware that the industry was entering a period of ‘second generation placements’. Modern performing PVC-U windows were replacing first generation windows and doors that had been installed in the 1970s to 1980s. Speaking to people at the coal face of window installation was a real eye opener and enlighten me to the challenges facing the industry. The consensus was they were very aware of re-cycling and the use of re-cycled PVC-U for the granules used to extrude new window profiles. So why wasn’t it common practice? I asked. In short, the perception from fabricators, installers and importantly homeowners, was that a window produced from re-cycled PVC-U should be cheaper. This represented a major road block for the supply chain. As an installer why would you sell a product that essentially cost the same for less because it was made from ‘old’ PVC-U windows…..

Five years on, consumer attitudes towards re-cycling have drastically changed. Sustainability is a now a buzz word, and is backed-up by real concern about the future prospects for our planet. The news is now awash with actions by environmentalists, the manner of their actions can split opinions. However, when children organise one of the world’s largest climate protests it is maybe time to start paying serious attention to the way we look after our planet. These children will be the adults and consumers of the future and the opinions they are forming are very different to the ones we grew-up with. I constantly battle with adults who today show little interest as they believe climate change will have little effect on them. This narrow mined approach really does show little respect for future generations. We are current guardians of the planet for these future generations and we now need to act to safeguard its destruction.

Plastic is an area that has been targeted by environmentalists. Society is slowly learning and it is really encouraging to see so many people ditching plastic bottles. The window industry is interestingly placed with its own sustainable credentials. Nowadays windows and doors are viewed positively in terms of energy efficiency and are considered a major contributor to achieving zero-carbon housing. These energy efficiency characters greatly improve a homes carbon position in relation to heat loss and reducing the need for energy. We need to be careful that the sustainability message is reinforced and that PVC-U windows are not classified as just another ‘plastic’ product bad for the environment. This requires continued education directed at consumers. Windows manufactured from all materials can have a positive effect on the environment. Sustainability is the key characteristics we all need to push home. The great work carried out by the glass and glazing industry awards, the G-Awards, with its sustainability category is a fine example of championing all the efforts the fenestration industry is making in the area of sustainability. Everyone has a responsibility. Closed loop recycling is our own industry’s commitment and an area that need promoting to the outside world. All industries are under pressure, it’s about how we all act. There is no escaping. The financial sector is also under the spotlight, and is now under pressure to create ‘ethical’ funds, investing in companies that respect the environment. They are taking positive action and listening to the concern of their customers. The window industry needs to follow suit and act now to protect the future of PVC-U windows. Within the industry we know they are sustainable, we just need to ensure the outside world doesn’t associate them negative characteristics of single use plastics.