The European Green Deal published by the European Commission in December 2019 will have to allow Europe to step up its effort to contribute to keeping the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C as the threshold indicated by science to avoid the climate change impacts incompatible with life on the planet. It aims to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent. The Green Deal addresses construction as one of the key topics for the green transition.
As a part of the Green Deal, the Renovation Wave initiative aims at renovating millions of buildings, increase the renovation rate to at least 2 % in the next decade, boosting the economy in periods of recovery, delivering better houses to Europeans, and supporting the 2050 climate neutrality goal.
EPPA and its members support the Renovation Wave aiming to improve the quality and renovation rate of European building stock to increase its energy efficiency.
Windows are an essential part of building renovation, replacing an old window with a new PVC double or triple-glazed window is the single most cost-effective energy renovation measure for buildings. Replacing an old window from the 1980s with a new PVC window can increase energy savings up to 70-75%. Thus, window replacement could easily save more than 15% of the whole heating needs of the existing European building stock.
Increasing the renovation rate of buildings from 1.2% to 2 % per year will mean that many windows will be replaced. Today there are around 650 million PVC windows installed across Europe. With the increased renovation rate expected, millions of PVC windows will be available for recycling per year. If the use of lead-containing recyclate is forbidden, these windows will go to landfills.
Chemical Strategy for Sustainability
The Chemical Strategy for Sustainability sets out actions to make chemicals safe and sustainable by design. The initiative shall ensure that chemicals can deliver all their benefits without harming humans or the environment. Simultaneously, The Commission also promotes the use of secondary raw materials, the establishment of non-toxic material cycles, and innovation in industrial production processes. EPPA agrees that knowledge on the presence of substances of very high concern through the life cycle of materials and products is important.
Connecting dots between the Renovation Wave and Chemical Strategy for Sustainability
The PVC profile industry supports the implementation of both initiatives, to minimize climate impacts through reducing energy and raw material use (less virgin PVC, more recyclate). Thus, the most important is to ensure that the most sustainable end-of-life solution for PVC windows is supported and furthered, to make both, the CSS and the renovation wave a success.
PVC windows play a crucial role in both of them: For instance, a 40% recyclate content in new window profiles saves emissions of 12 kg CO2-eq. per window unit during the production phase. Already today PVC windows are circular construction products, PVC windows are recycled in controlled and closed loops, ensuring full traceability and re-use of the valuable resource PVC-U. Old windows serve as the raw material supply for new profiles. Life cycle assessments have shown that recycling is by far the best end-of-life management option for PVC windows. In Europe, there are currently some 650 million PVC windows installed. The replacement of windows (next to insulation and roofing) is the preferred action of choice for energy-efficient building renovation. Therefore, in the upcoming years, millions of PVC windows will reach their end of life annually.
Hence, vital synergies for windows on circularity, recycling, and energy efficiency can be identified.
Renovation wave will incentivize the dismantling of used PVC windows
PVC windows are long-life products, with a life span of about 40 years. While the use of lead stabilizers was phased out over 15 years ago, around 80% of current PVC window stock (430 million PVC windows) still contains this legacy additive. Scientific assessments commissioned by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) have demonstrated that the lead is safely embedded in the rigid PVC matrix.
The renovation wave will incentivize the dismantling of these old windows and sustainability-reasoning demands that these windows are recycled and re-introduced in new windows (as a core material, covered by virgin PVC). For over 20 years, the PVC profile industry has established the corresponding closed-loop recycling network, including collection and recycling capacities across Europe. Today, 23% of PVC material used in European window profiles is sourced from window PVC recyclate.
Sustainable Products Initiative
The SPI is a key part of the Circular Economy Action plan (CEAP). As main action the initiative will widen the scope of the Eco-design Directive beyond energy-related products already covered under the CPR and define complementary legislative proposals to regulate sustainability aspects of products such as durability, reusability, upgradability, and reparability; the presence of hazardous chemicals; energy and resource efficiency; recycled content remanufacturing and carbon and environmental footprints. For EPPA it is important to have all the elements related to environmental sustainability covered by the CPR.
VinylPlus Recycling Project
With the increased renovation rate expected, millions of PVC windows will be available for recycling per year. If the use of lead-containing recyclate is forbidden, these windows will go to landfills. Increased recycling rates will lead to more construction materials being integrated into the circular economy. Thus, it is vital recyclers are allowed to recycle old PVC windows for the next 15 years.
Thus, EPPA and its members have well-established collection-for-recycling schemes for windows in Germany and are establishing schemes in France and Poland. The industry invests to collect its products in the major European markets.
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