Recycling Old Windows: Removing The Barriers
Nov 23, 2023

Recycling Old Windows: Removing The Barriers

Press information

Prepared by VAST PR exclusively for VEKA Recycling Ltd, for the September issue of The Installer magazine

With such an emphasis on recycling influencing our daily lives, recycling old PVC-U windows should be second nature for installers. Not yet, says Stuart Stockley, MD of VEKA Recycling, but we are getting there.

Every British homeowner is now compelled by their local authority to separate and recycle their household waste, whilst our streets are lined with distinctive green bins that call for materials that may be recycled, to be separated. Packaging is marked to be either recyclable or manufactured from recycled material – or indeed both. And yet whilst we recover and recycle an estimated 80% of old PVC-U window and door frames that are removed during the process of replacing them with new, getting those last frames into the system remains a challenge.

Stuart Stockley, who heads up VEKA Recycling Ltd, the UK division of the company that pioneered the recycling of old PVC-U frames in Europe, says that despite having a highly developed, sophisticated system for recycling old PVC-U frames, more needs to be done to ensure that every frame is returned for reprocessing: “Simply by calculating the volume of virgin PVC-U material that is used by the UK window and door industry, compared to estimates about the number of window and door frames replaced, we know that as an industry we are not getting every frame back. Anecdotal evidence also shows that many installers still continue to skip frames along with the other debris and waste that results from an installation. And whilst these will invariably be sorted by the waste contractor, we know that many frames still ‘disappear’…and we have to assume that they end up being landfilled.”

What is surprising is that homeowners, despite being compelled to return all other recyclable waste materials into the system by their local authority as well as being heavily influenced to do so through constant messaging, often show little interest in what is happening to the old frames being removed from their homes: “Our evidence is again anecdotal, but if a homeowner even asks what is happening to their old windows, they are easily satisfied with a vague response; few challenge the installer for a comprehensive answer,” asserts Stuart. “We want to encourage every installer not only to return the old frames back into the system for recycling, but to use that as an effective marketing and sales tool to secure sales.”

Stuart believes that the first step to encourage uncommitted installers to return old frames, is to make it so convenient and cost-effective that it becomes intuitive, as he explained: “If we cannot appeal to the environmental consciences of installers, then we need to make strong financial arguments and actually, to make it just as easy to return frames to us as it is to skip them. Often, we simply need to break the habits of a lifetime.

“That is why we are increasingly offering local collection of old frames, either from site or from installers’ yards. And we are able to do this by creating hubs to allow relatively local collections and consolidation into bulk loads, with the first now open in Burnley. This allows us to collect smaller loads from Scotland and the north of England, to then consolidate these into larger shipments back to our central Wellingborough headquarters where the recycling process is completed.”

The creation of the depot also allows VEKA Recycling to deploy smaller vehicles to carry out local collections, perhaps within 50 miles of the Burnley depot, which is coincidentally located near the firm’s systems-producing sister company. The depot will also collect virgin offcuts from local fabricators, irrespective of the brand of profile. Further, installers may drop off old frames to suit their own needs and schedule.

Stuart says that their research amongst installers also reveals that the disposal of old glass units remains a problem: “Many feel that whilst disposal of frames is sorted, they are still stuck with the problem of deglazing windows and getting rid of the glass, including the Georgian bar, lead and spacer. Some therefore feel it’s easier just to throw it all in the skip and get rid of it.”

Not any more, says Stuart: “We are now looking at recycling solutions for the IGUs and can offer bespoke solutions to installers. We believe that this will be a great incentive for installers to work with us…simply because ‘why wouldn’t you?!’”

You can find out more information about our uPVC windows and doors recycling process by contacting our team.