UK timber shortage risk – industry response

Window Solutions response to an article we published last month entitled “Industry risks running out of timber soon if we don’t become more sustainable” posing the question: is PVC-U a more natural choice for windows as the sustainability of timber is called into question, or can the industry rebound?

Dear Editor,

On 11 July, you ran an article entitled ‘Industry risks running out of timber soon if we don’t become more sustainable’, which talked about the findings of a report from the WWF and the need for businesses to commit to sustainable timber sourcing to guarantee supplies for the future and keep timber prices stable. For the windows industry – and those specialising in wooden doors and frames – the report heralds an important warning which must not be ignored.

The world’s raw materials supply is being outstripped by growing global demand, and businesses everywhere must commit to using less. In the past, PVC too has faced similar challenges in supply and demand and we had to adapt quickly to survive.

We started small, recycling trade off-cuts more than 15 years ago. It’s relatively simple to recycle PVC and when used with new polymer, it can be given a new lease of life. Some reports suggest that PVC can be recycled up to 10 times in its lifetime, so future new polymer use could be significantly less if we recycle and reuse it more.

Our commitment to sustainability and using our resources more carefully has since expanded over the years – not because of the threat of another material supply crisis but because we needed to futureproof our business. We have invested more than €50m in new technology and facilities to ensure that more than half of our products will be made using recycled materials by 2020. Our ultimate goal is to use up to 100 per cent post-consumer waste in the core of our profiles.

At this year’s Fit Show, we launched our new co-extrusion profile, which uses new and recycled PVC together. For the replacement of first generation PVC-U windows, co-extruded profiles offer a closed loop process as the windows being taken out of a property can be recycled and reincarnated as new windows.

Our past resource crisis actually made us a better business committed to sustainability, and I hope that our timber counterparts in the windows industry will react and rebound in a similar way. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps in the future we will see new wooden frame designs, which use less raw materials or take advantage of recycled material. This will be good for the progression of the market, new product development and this all benefits our customers.

The windows industry may yet come out of this timber crisis stronger, leaner and greener.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Jones,
Marketing & Technical Director – Window Solutions at REHAU

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