PVC window systems are subject to important regulations such as the Construction Products Regulation, the Waste Framework Directive, the RoHS Directive for certain hazardous substances and the REACH Regulation.
In order to facilitate the alignment of industrial processes with legal regulations EPPA, as a stakeholder, carefully follows the developments of European and national legislation.
Construction Products Regulation (CPR)
The Construction Products Regulation is one of the most important European legal acts dealing with windows. It defines the conditions under which a construction product can be placed on the market. It defines harmonized rules on how the performance of a construction product should be expressed. By using the CE mark, manufacturers declare compliance with these essential requirements.
Harmonized Product standard hEN 14351-1
A harmonized standard for windows was drawn up by the European Committee for Standardization CEN and published as EN 14351-1. It covers windows made of all frame materials (wood/aluminium/PVC) and is the standard for determining all essential characteristics based on the essential working requirements laid down in the CPR. These are:
mechanical resistance and stability
safety in case of fire
safety and accessibility in use
hygiene, health and environment
protection against noise
energy, economy and heat storage
sustainable use of natural resources
Working for legal certainty
Windows are currently covered by more than one European legislation. In addition to CPR, window manufacturers must also comply with the requirements of REACH, the Classification and Labelling of Products Directive (CLP), RoHS and others. EPPA members believe that all legal requirements relevant to their products should ideally be contained in a single piece of legislation to reduce administrative burden and increase legal certainty.
European Waste Framework Directive (WFD)
The European Waste Framework Directive deals with materials from "End-of-Life (EoL) products". Its aim is to reduce the impact of waste on the environment and human health by installing appropriate waste management systems.
How does the WFD affect the PVC profile industry?
When PVC windows reach the end of their life cycle, they should be recycled. Under the current WFD, an EoL product becomes waste. Therefore, anyone dealing with this waste material must obtain a waste treatment permit, which is subject to very strict criteria and conditions.
In a circular economy, materials have different life cycles than products. While a product reaches the end of its life cycle at one point, the materials of which it is composed begin their next life cycle as (secondary) raw materials for a new product. This should be acknowledged by facilitating the transition from EoL material to secondary raw material.
In other words, the interface between waste legislation (WFD), chemicals (REACH/CLP) and product (CPR) legislation must favor the circularity of materials. Contradictions between the instruments must be resolved and, most importantly, recycling must be favored where it is the best material option from a life-cycle-assessment-point-of-view. For PVC windows, recycling has already proven to be the most sustainable option.
Proposal to improve this legislation
Landfill ban in 2025 and lead assessmentEPPA advocates a landfill ban to avoid waste of the valuable PVC material and to promote the establishment of collection and recycling systems. In this context, it should also be noted that the WFD itself sets the priority of recycling over energy recovery and incineration.
As part of the European Union (EU) Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has constructed a database containing information regarding the use of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).
Companies supplying articles containing above 0.1% weight by weight (w/w) SVHCs on the EU market have to submit information on these articles to ECHA, as of the 5th of January 2021. The SCIP database will be set up to increase availability of information on articles containing Candidate List substances. The information requirement is based on Art. 33 REACH which already existed and was complied with independently of the database. However, the legislator believes that accessibility for waste operators and consumers is increased via the introduction of the database.
More information on the database itself can be found here: https://echa.europa.eu/scip-database
The feeding of information into the database will require substantial resources and EPPA considers them to be a bureaucratic burden, in particular for SMEs, that is not justified by a corresponding added value: EPPA and its members consider SCIP database not to be thoughtful about long-life products, such as, windows. There will be no added value to the waste operator when the window transitions into the waste process in 40 years. Firstly, it will be difficult for the waste operators to track the article by its name, secondly, other substances might be classified as SVHCs in the future, and therefore the provided information today will be of little use in 40 years from now.
Instead, EPPA proposes to adapt a waste-stream based approach. Therein, it should be outlined in what waste windows can be found in 40 years from now and which substances this waste stream may contain.
The RoHS Directive implements restriction on hazardous substances in electronic products. Based on a political decision, windows are also judged to be such electronic products. This means that for substances, windows are covered by REACH and by RoHS legislation with non-harmonized legislative requirements. On the product level, windows are subject to the CPR and RoHS.
EPPA calls on the European legislator to remove windows from the scope of the RoHS Directive. Windows are non-electronic products but can only be equipped with them. This electronic equipment has been and should continue to be covered by RoHS. Windows are sufficiently regulated by REACH, CLP and CPR legislation. All requirements from RoHS create legal uncertainty and partially contradict the existing, mentioned legislation.
The Regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) aims to ensure a high level of protection for human health and the environment while allowing the free movement of substances on the European market.
How does REACH affect the PVC profile industry?
Primarily due to the use of recycled materials, profile manufacturers are subject to the regulation. Manufacturers must therefore monitor the content of hazardous substances in their products. They must ensure safe use for articles sold into the EU.
For profile manufacturers there are essentially three substances that have or may soon have a critical status under REACH:
Cadmium has already been phased out by the PVC profile industry. An exemption has been created under REACH for residues (legacy additives) found in the recyclate.
Lead stabilizers were used in the past and have been gradually replaced since 2003.
However, windows that are now recycled still contain these stabilizers. They are coextruded into new profiles. As these additives are embedded in the matrix, they do not pose a risk to human health. They do not migrate out of the PVC.
Restricting the use of lead in recyclates would endanger the recycling activities of the whole industry, as it is currently not economically feasible to remove lead from the recyclate.
As construction products, windows are subject to two regulatory frameworks when it comes to substances: the REACH legislation and the Construction Products Regulation. The Basic Work Requirement 3 has the potential to adequately cover the handling of hazardous substances. We call for a better alignment of the two instruments to streamline requirements and to remove bureaucratic burdens.
Read more about PVC window recycling in our corresponding Factsheet.