Volume 13, Issue 8 - October 2012
Eye on Energy
Look around the room. Observe the number of products in your immediate vicinity that are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). From the bottle of water on your desk to the clock in the corner, vinyl is everywhere.
Relatively stable material costs, versatility and inherent durability have made vinyl an ideal choice for a myriad of applications.
No one can argue the impact vinyl has had on the window industry. In terms of energy efficiency, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates a $125 to $340 annual savings in energy bills when single-pane windows are replaced with Energy Star-rated vinyl windows. Durability also contributes to vinyl’s popularity because the longer a window lasts, less energy and fewer resources are needed to make and install replacement products.
Since it hit the market in the early 1980s, vinyl has continued to evolve to make it a safer, cleaner and more environmentally friendly material. That trend continues with a wave of advocates who are leading an effort to act responsibly by more effectively reusing recycled vinyl in second-generation products.
Since 2010, the European PVC industry has embarked on a second ten-year initiative called VinylPlus that builds on the achievements of Vinyl 2010. This new initiative aims to increase PVC recycling to 800,000 tons per year and to develop and exploit new technologies to recycle 100,000 tons per year of “difficult-to-recycle PVC.”
Historically, the general market consensus has been that using post-industrial, recycled PVC in new products does not yield a profile with the highest visual aesthetic quality. Thanks to technologies developed in Europe over the past ten years, that is no longer the case.
This process begins with a thorough review of the recycled sources to identify any impurities. The vinyl profiles go through a number of analyses to ensure chemical and mechanical compatibility. Examples of chemicals checked include lead, calcium, titanium and tin.
Once the recycling source is certified to meet specific chemical and physical properties, material then can be processed, color-stabilized for aesthetics, and then specially extruded into the non-visible facets of the frame profile. The visible portion of the window frame utilizes first-generation vinyl compound to ensure premium weathering performance.
Doing Your Part
End Notes: 1. Vinyl 2010, retrieved from http://www.vinyl2010.org, August 2012
Jeff York is vice president of process innovation at Quanex Building Products.