Fifteen years ago VEKA Umwelttechnik GmbH, the recycling arm of VEKA Group, decided to establish a UK subsidiary. Unsurprisingly, a company with involvement in recycling PVC-U profiles, including end-of-life window and door frames as well as virgin offcuts, was acquired and re-branded and VEKA Recycling Ltd hung its name above the door.
Things have moved on significantly since then; the original site at Swanscombe alongside the River Thames in Kent, was closed in 2018 following the location of a 6-acre site in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, where an initial commitment to invest £12 million in a purpose-built, state-of-the-art window and door recycling centre, has since grown to £15 million.
Rather than cost overrun however, the firm has spent more to achieve more. Already the most advanced facility of its type in Europe, capacity has now been grown to satisfy demand for recycled pellet driven by the outages in PVC-U resin supply, coupled with a growing desire to ‘green’ products. Including, perhaps belatedly, the window and door industry itself.
Managing Director Simon Scholes explains: “Perhaps paradoxically the window and door industry was compelled to introduce more recycled compound into its processes, by the resin shortages experienced during the past two years, rather than a desire to improve sustainability. Now that it has tipped over, there is a realisation that, actually, ‘sustainability’ might be good for sales.”
This has created some tensions in the supply chain, as existing customers of VEKA Compounds, the firm’s production arm, compete with a new and demanding sector, that ironically was also the donor for the feedstock: “Industry generally has faced the most extraordinary and challenging years, not due to a drop in demand, but for an unanticipated boom across many sectors,” continued Simon.
“In home improvements, as homeowners spent considerable amounts of time staring at the walls of their homes, they decided to improve them, and that sent the replacement windows and doors business into overdrive. Add in the resin outages, and demand for high quality recycled material has grown significantly.”
The spike in demand has been satisfied, with the increase in spend by VEKA Recycling a serious commitment to increase volumes, as Simon explains: “We need to satisfy the demands of our regular customers in addition to putting material back into the fenestration sector. To enable this, we have installed a further shredder, which complements earlier spend on an additional extrusion line. These allow us to recycle over 35,000 tonnes of PVCu windows annually and produce the highest quality pellet.” advises Simon.
Crucially, as demand for high quality recyclate grows, the commitment by VEKA Group to building the plant in the UK means that the process is genuinely circular, precluding the need to export for refinement to then be re-imported: “It is crucial that we do not taint this highly sustainable process by increasing our carbon footprint in other ways,” adds Simon.
“This, as much as anything, offers a clear view of VEKA Group’s holistic approach to PVC-U as a highly valuable, versatile and sustainable material.”