FIVE KEY ELEMENTS FOR CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Raw Material / Product Design
In sustainable procurement EPPA pledges for the considerate use of raw materials and also stand for future-oriented product design, which today already includes recyclability after a 30- to 40-year service life.
Sustainability requires resource-saving manufacturing process, in which energy is used sparingly and the emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants is reduced.
Durability / Functionality
A window’s life counts at least 30 years during which product performance must remain constant. Independent product and quality marks such as the VinylPlus Product Label stand for windows that are long-lasting and are produced from sustainable resources.
If a PVC window is replaced, it is far too valuable for the landfill or incineration plant. Instead, the old window serves as a raw material supply for new profiles and thus must remain in a closed loop via recycling.
New Windows with Recyclate
When buying new PVC windows it is worth asking whether a window contains recycled PVC (recyclate). The recyclate core saves raw materials, energy and CO2 emissions during production.
Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)
Environmental Product Declarations, which EPPA published for double-glazed windows and triple-glazed PVC windows, summarize the environmental impact of PVC window profile systems throughout their entire life cycle from raw material to disposal. The data set represents over 90% of the European market for PVC window profiles.
EPPA is committed to a Europe-wide harmonization of environmental impact assessments for construction products.
In this context, EPPA also supports "Level(s)", the voluntary sustainability assessment framework for buildings, as developed by the European Union.
PVC Window Recycling
Since more than 25 years, used PVC windows can be fully recycled by re-introducing the resulting recycled PVC (recylate) into the core of new PVC windows. Today the PVC industry uses around 50% of its own recyclate (controlled loop). For EPPA, recycling is a key topic, both in terms of energy and resource efficiency and in terms of controlled or closed loop recycling management.
That is why EPPA has developed a European recycling strategy. The vision for 2025 is that EPPA increases the visibility of the profile industry that is the blueprint for closed loop recycling in all member states.
The main goals are to improve the collection of old windows to recycle 420.000 tons of PVC from windows by 2025 and to establish one controlled loop for PVC profiles. Therefore, the association advocates increasing the number of collection points for old windows in the main markets Germany and France by coordinating actions with Rewindo (DE) and UFME/SNEP (FR) and by support recycling activities also in UK. In collaboration with polish actors, EPPA would like to develop and implement a clearinghouse concept for Poland.
EPPA has been a partner of the European sustainability concept VinylPlus® since the beginning of the 2000s. In line with the five VinylPlus objectives, EPPA supports the goal to recycle 900,000 tons PVC annually by 2025.
EPPA and the European manufacturers of PVC window profiles have largely implemented these five VinylPlus challenges or are working intensively on them:
Controlled-Loop Management of PVC
More than 25 years ago EPPA implemented the more efficient use and control of PVC windows throughout its life cycle via recycling. The PVC profile industry is the only sector (cp. to other window materials) which keeps the material in a controlled (window to construction applications) or even closed loop (window to window) system. That’s a result of 100 millions of Euros in investments.
EPPA members only procure material from modern manufacturing technology and production facilities. Therefore, they help to ensure that persistent organic compounds do not accumulate in nature and that other emissions are reduced.
Sustainable Use of Additives
Since the early 2000s the majority of the profile industry stopped using lead and cadmium stabilisers. They have moved towards more sustainable additives like calcium-zinc or glass fibre material, that is used today. Industry wholly supports the restriction for all new and imported PVC products.
Sustainable Energy and Climate Stability
The PVC profile industry help minimize climate impacts through reducing energy and raw material use (less fresh PVC, more recyclate), potentially endeavouring to switch to renewable sources and promoting sustainable innovations like design-for-recycling.
The last 20 years and in future, EPPA continues to build sustainability awareness across the value chain to accelerate progress towards resolving the VinylPlus sustainability challenges – through public relations and communication with stakeholders and representatives from national and European politics.
Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA)
As a member of the EU recycling initiative Circular Plastics Alliance, launched in 2018, EPPA is actively working with some 200 other companies and associations towards the common recycling objectives of using at least 10 million tons of recycled plastic in new products by 2025. In the CPA working group “Construction", the association also coordinates the topic "Design-for-Recycling".
increasing the market average of recycling PVC used by 1% point every year
increasingpost-consumer waste recycling
increasing the material efficiency of the production processes
These recycling objectives and the recycling of old windows as a whole is endangered by legal barriers, that includes:
any potential restriction of lead use below 2%* or cadmium use below 0,1%
any potential restriction of other additives used in PVC profile production in the past
any potential required authorization on the use of substances present in recyclate
any classification of PVC waste as hazardous
Further more there should not be any mandatory requirements on the use of recyclate in the PVC industry. This would increase the scarcity of high quality recycled PVC material and prevent compliance with the commitment.
EPPA is therefore working on a legislative solution that will allow the PVC profile industry to continue to use the recyclate in their products in a harmonized way throughout Europe, while protecting the environment and human health as much as possible. This is the only way to make a true recycling of PVC a reality. Learn more about recycling in our videos.
*Lead, which no longer occurs in PVC windows, can be contained in the recycled material of old windows. Scientific studies have shown that PVC window profiles do not pose a risk to processors and consumers, as recycled PVC is firmly enclosed in fresh PVC. Read more about the topic under "Regulatory Framework"
Reusable Transport System for Stillages
In 2019, EPPA introduced Europe wide systems for the return of long goods transport stillages with the aim of ensuring that window manufacturers are able to return stillages and thus guarantee the sustainable use of this recyclable packaging and transport solution. A rental, deposit or CRM system is available. Find out more about this topic in the information flyer.