PVC recycling at VEKA Umwelttechnik
May 15, 2024

A new life for old plastic windows

A cycle for window profiles

According to a recent study, 11 million tons of CO₂ per year could be saved in Germany if the 209 million outdated window units in residential buildings were replaced. However, refurbishment is only consistently sustainable if outdated PVC windows are collected, fed into the proven recycling cycle and then processed into new, highly thermally insulating profiles. Therefore, we have been committed to PVC recycling for more than 30 years.

VEKA Umwelttechnik has recycled 25 million plastic windows since it was founded in 1993, making an important contribution to reducing the volume of waste. But as impressive as this figure is, it also highlights the monumental task, which the window construction industry is facing in the upcoming years.

According to a study updated in March 2024 and published by the German Window + Façade Association (VFF) and the German Flat Glass Association (BF), 209 million window units in residential buildings are in need of energy-efficient refurbishment. According to the study, there are 168 million window units in Germany with uncoated insulating glass, 35 million window units are laminated and box-type windows and 6 million window units are only single-glazed.

Collection service for old windows

At VEKA Umwelttechnik in Germany over 50,000 tons of PVC can be processed each year. Together with the recycling sites in France and Great Britain, which were founded in 2006 and 2007, there are even 100,000 tons of PVC that can be recovered in high purity for profile production. As two tons of CO2 are saved for every ton of PVC that does not have to be newly produced, the three plants can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 200,000 tons per year.

However, in order to use this enormous potential, we need the help of the trades. Only if the old windows are separated from other waste during demolition or renovation and sent for recycling, they so have a chance of a new life as highly-insulating and energy-saving windows.

VEKA Umwelttechnik therefore offers a convenient nationwide collection service for recycling material. Depending on the volume, collection containers of different sizes can be ordered, from 1.4 m3 tipping skips to 36 m3 roll-off containers.

Collection can take place on the construction site, if required, and can be organized with just one click on the internet. For window manufacturers, this arrangement saves time and money, because the waste does not have to be taken to a collection point and disposed of there for a relatively high, weight-based fee. In contrast, only a small flat rate is charged for collection by VEKA Umwelttechnik - and the supplying companies receive CO₂ savings certificates in return.

Thinking in cycles right from the beginning

However, recycling is only the last step in the life cycle of a plastic profile. In order to reduce waste and emissions, we therefore consider the issue of sustainability in every step of our products' lives. Right from the development stage, the profile systems are designed in such a way that nothing stands in the way of recycling at the end of their service life.

PVC-U windows are therefore one of the few building elements - and this is an argument that should not be underestimated in sales talks with builders and architects - where the circular economy is already largely a reality today. In the VEKA Group's profile division, for example, an average of almost 30 % recycled PVC is used in profiles throughout Europe. As the material can be recycled up to ten times and windows have a service life of 30 to 40 years, the material can be used for over 300 years.

For window manufacturers, using the recycling services offered by VEKA Umwelttechnik is a decision for more sustainability in every respect. This is the only way to ensure that the PVC material remains in the material cycle and that new window profiles can be produced from the old material, which have a significantly lower CO2 footprint than those made from new PVC.

PVC windows are the first building products for which a completely closed material cycle is already possible today. Therefore, the participating processors are ideally prepared for the requirements of the future in order to meet the goals of the circular economy, as required by the European Union as part of the Green Deal and the 2050 net zero target.

You are interested in plastic recycling, please visit the recycling website of our English subsidiary:

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PVC recycling at VEKA

New, highly insulating profiles can be made from old windows. Therefore, it is important that old plastic windows are collected and recycled.