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Window of opportunity

Post-production glass is a common source of material for firms using recycled material in their products. British Gypsum Isover, for example, produces a range of glass mineral wool products called Isowool for thermal and acoustic insulation as well as fire protection.

Seventy percent of the materials used to make this product come from post-production glass, with the rest of the product made from sand. British Gypsum Isover was one of 20 partners in the Waste and Resources Action Programmes (WRAP) research project to make post-consumer glass as readily available to end-users as post-production glass.

The Government-funded agency commissioned the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to set up and monitor five trials, which ranged from replacement window companies sending away the glass they removed for recycling, to building sites where the windows were deconstructed onsite and all materials were segregated into separate skips.

The common theme for these trials was the ever-increasing cost of firms simply sending their waste to landfill, and the wish of those involved to avoid them. Despite such pressing financial incentives, there were practical and logistical problems for the companies involved in the trials to overcome.

For example, deconstruction of windows before reprocessing will be recommended in BREs final report, because it provides the cleanest, highest-quality materials and can command a higher price from end-users.

However, while its fine to break up a window on a construction site, people who have just bought double glazing are hardly likely to want a live demonstration of window deconstruction in their living room.

Claire Goodby, spokesman for window replacement firm and project partner WSH Halo, says: The more deconstruction there is the better the value of recycling. But we dont want deconstruction in residents homes for health and safety reasons. Also, most fitters simply dont have the time to carefully break up windows and segregate into material types, such as PVC, metal and glass. They view time spent on this as money lost.

WSH Halos solution to this problem was to make sure fitters werent losing money.



Savings

As Goodby explains: At the moment most glaziers are paying to send their waste to landfill. Companies can simply pass part of the saving they make from recycling onto their fitters.

The company also provided a manual to make sure health and safety was adhered to and waste sent to the appropriate collection depots.

All of WSH Halos recommendations are likely to appear in WRAPs good practice toolkit, which is based on BREs final report on results from all five trials.

Perhaps the most impressive figures of any trial are those from the refurbishment of 1,400 homes in Reading.

Windows, doors and sinks were removed from the houses and then segregated into separate skips for plastic, metal and glass.

Environmental firm BKP then collected the skips and sold the materials on to reprocessors.

Diverting the waste from landfill meant gate fees and landfill tax were much lower, while the use of six segregated skips rather than a couple taking mixed waste allowed skip pick-ups to be made less often.This reduced builders costs by 60%.

BKP environmental managed services project manager Richard Bartlett says: We did a cost analysis on the preliminary figures for waste and were looking at £450,000 for the whole project. We are now on course for costs of only £180,000.

The savings allow the contractors to employ a person onsite who makes sure each type of waste goes into its respective skip, avoiding materials contamination.

This has led to an onsite recycling rate of 45%.

According to Bartlett: This is a first. Before now the construction sites we worked with recycled only 5% of their waste, with just scrap metal and hardcore being sold on. The rest of the waste was in mixed skips, which always go to landfill. u

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