Closing The Loop

Eurocell Recycle is the recycling operation that enables Eurocell to transform old PVC-U window and door frame waste into new PVC-U extrusions that can be manufactured into new sustainable products, writes the company’s sustainability manager Simon Drury.

The principle is known as a closed loop model – or cradle to cradle.

We have the largest PVC-U recycling system in the UK, 16.8k tonnes of recycled material goes through our centres every year, equivalent to 3 million windows. It’s imperative that we are committed to recycling every piece of waste so that the environmental impact of our products is as minimal as possible.

That’s why we have invested more than £10 million into our recycling plants and nationwide service, which includes two purpose-built centres that handle all of our recycling, creating one of the most innovative and advanced recycling systems in the UK.


Our recycling process

Our closed loop system is a nine-step process that results in new profiles manufactured from old PVC-U.

To start, waste is collected and there are three primary sources for this – post-consumer waste, fabricator cut-offs and bar length. Once at our plant it is shredded into processable pieces. Next, it goes through separation which uses a magnetic process to separate metals from the rest of the waste. This is recycled separately from the plastic.

This remaining waste is granulated into uniform size before it is washed, which involves a series of water tanks to ensure that contaminants are ‘floated’ out.


In the loop

The sixth stage is sorting. This is an advanced process which filters out rubber granules to leave only clean, colour sorted PVC-U. To create new products, pelletisation turns the granules into finished material that is ready for extrusion. A proportion of the recycled material is then used onsite, whilst the rest is transported to our extrusion facility.

The final step is to close the loop as it is manufactured into new PVC-U profiles.


Even better

It's important to note that the final newly formed product is often made to a higher specification than those that were recycled.


What does this process mean?

This operation has rigorous targets to help lower our carbon footprint year on year. In 2022, our responsible consumption resulted in 47 kilotons of CO2 saved and 82% of our PVC-U recycled.

Up to 70,000 old windows are processed per week and turned into new products, which means almost 100% of our production waste is reused.

The quality control system to eliminate other materials means there is a less than 1% return-to-site ratio.


How the industry can benefit from recycling

By partnering with larger organisations that have robust processes in place, fabricators and installers greatly benefit from recycling for a variety of reasons.

The convenience of having a partner that does regular collections creates financial gain from getting rid of old windows which would usually be taken to landfill sites or kept in skips or waste storage. It also eliminates the need for storage of large quantities of frames and provides reliability that this can be arranged frequently.

Another benefit of recycling with a large business is the peace of mind that this is done responsibly and complies with Environment Agency regulations. We provide traceable reports of our recycling and information is also released online.

By using recycled products, carbon footprints are lowered. Despite worries about the quality of these products, PVC-U is robust enough to be recycled and repurposed up to 10 times without the quality or performance deteriorating.


Purpose-built student accommodation

Our sustainability credentials from recycling are particularly in demand in purpose-built student accommodation housing. Hythe Mills student residence in Colchester is just one example, where our Modus windows were used on the 229-bedroom, fitness studio and networking hub development. An advantage of this range is that an average of 50% post-consumer recycled PVC-U is used.


Take action

Eurocell Recycle is a huge part of our business and allows us to be at the forefront of recycling in the industry. The closed loop system keeps waste to a minimum. There is often a lack of understanding by businesses and also poor communication with customers on the benefits of recycling PVC-U.

Advances in manufacturing mean that recycled PVC-U isn’t an issue, so the industry should look to use this as much as possible. We are determined to help the construction industry to eliminate waste. Government targets will only become stricter so it’s important to take action on recycling now in order to help the environment.


Pictures: Eurocell Recycle allows Eurocell to collect old PVC-U windows and doors and transform them into new PVC-U extrusions which ultimately become new windows and door frames.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer
24th October 2023


Related Articles