SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- The North American window and door industry has entered a new phase in its commitment to environmental sustainability through recycling, according to Avoiding the Landfill: The Recycling of Vinyl Windows and Doors, a recently released paper by the Vinyl Material Council (VMC) of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA).
The VMC initiated a feasibility study to evaluate strategies for making post-consumer vinyl recycling activities viable on a broad scale, and established a task group to outline the challenges of creating an industry-wide vinyl window and door recycling program. The VMC determined that, for an industry-wide window and door program to be successful, it would have to include windows and doors of all varying materials, not just vinyl windows and doors.
“The number of vinyl window and door units being replaced has been historically very low, thanks to their durability and ease of maintenance. But this figure is expected to increase significantly over time, due primarily to the volume of vinyl windows and doors installed since the early 1980s,” says Kim Litz (Arkema, Inc.), chairman of the VMC Green and Sustainability Committee, the group who developed the white paper. Market research cited within the publication indicate that vinyl windows now account for 60% of all conventional residential windows sold in the U.S., and vinyl patio doors hold a 41% market share.
Avoiding the Landfill notes that vinyl is a particularly attractive recycling target because it can be melted and reformed repeatedly, enabling nearly 100% of all industrial waste generated in the production of vinyl to be recycled via closed-loop recycling. Also noted is the high percentage of post-industrial vinyl -- 80% -- that is being reclaimed and recycled.
AAMA’s VMC reports that for a recycling program in North America to be both sustainable and economically feasible, there would have to be a sufficient number of collection centers spread across the continent, along with a logistics network to support the transportation of materials to recyclers. North America’s significant vinyl recycling infrastructure has more than 70 vinyl recycling operations and 80 manufacturers, whose products include recycled vinyl. The paper contends that the continent is well positioned for a post-consumer vinyl recycling program that would include window and door units.
Because vinyl windows and doors are highly engineered, multiple material systems, their component materials must, in most cases, be separated and reduced in size to be acceptable for recycling into a manufacturing stream. However, recyclers do have the technology necessary for tailoring their processes to handle this type of material, and Avoiding the Landfill contends that an industry-wide program would help ensure recyclers’ receptivity to making the necessary equipment adjustments by providing recyclers with sufficient volume.
To stimulate collection and delivery of vinyl windows and doors to certified recyclers, the paper suggests the possibility of funding support from window and door manufacturers. The paper notes the success of a European vinyl industry recycling initiative known as Recovinyl, which provides financial incentives to support the collection and sending of PVC waste to accredited waste recovery companies and recyclers. The incentive payments help offset the higher cost of recycling, in comparison to such alternatives as landfills.
Avoiding the Landfill: The Recycling of Vinyl Windows and Doors is available for download, at no cost, via the Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability section of the AAMA Vinyl Material Council’s Web page at http://www.aamanet.org/general.asp?sect=1&id=177