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Recycling revolution

Mar 2019 Cable & Wire | Comments Off on Recycling revolution
Recycling revolution

Paul Heatherington, CEO of leading cable management manufacturer Marshall-Tufflex, discusses the impact the construction industry has on the environment, and how the company is looking to drive change to ensure that all PVC-U cable management products are manufactured using recycled material in the next 10 years

Recent figures indicate that the construction industry uses around 420 million tonnes of materials each year, of which around 120 million tonnes are then wasted. In fact, the industry makes up around 60% of the national total, and around 25 million tonnes of this then ends up in landfill sites – having an incredibly damaging effect on the environment.

This too is prevalent in the electrical sector. Hundreds of thousands of metres of PVC-U cable management products pass through electrical wholesalers every year, a large amount of it manufactured from extrusion grade virgin PVC. However, we at Marshall-Tufflex are leading a growing trend that is emerging within the industry to adopt alternative solutions using recycled plastics.

A recent study from the Sustainable Industrial Systems group at Manchester University into industrial greenhouse gas emissions has developed an innovative piece of software called CCaLC (Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities), which allows companies to estimate the ‘cradle to grave’ carbon footprint of their products. This study has shown that the use of recycled PVC can offer a 20-fold reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to virgin product.

The myth about recycled materials

Independent research carried out back in 2016 showed that specifiers are often disinclined or reluctant to take a risk in specifying new products that contain a high percentage of recycled materials, with only 30% at that time finding a range with recycled content more desirable. This is possibly due to misconceptions that products manufactured with recycled materials are poor quality, high cost and ultimately less robust than their more traditional counterparts. This simply isn’t the case – as the majority of recycled PVC-U material comes from post-industrial window waste, meaning it is strong and robust. We have been working hard to educate the market and change these misconceptions.

The recycling process involves breaking down the existing materials into small, chipped pellets, then reforming them into the shape required. Once in a manufacturing plant, the materials can then be blended with virgin material to achieve the correct gloss finish for any cable management product.

This highlights a need to raise awareness across the sector of the proven benefits of specifying products with high recycled content both for the industry and the environment. This ideology will need to spread to every level of the supply chain, turning the traditional ‘cradle-to-grave’ operations to a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ model with the implementation of materials that can be consistently recycled.

Here at Marshall-Tufflex, we are the forerunner in pioneering this new movement, having used recycled plastics in our award-winning PVC-U cable management solutions for over 20 years. On average, our products are made up of an impressive 80% recycled material, with some white extruded products achieving 100%, far surpassing our goal that we wish to see embraced throughout the industry: that all PVC-U cable management specifications include a minimum of 50% recycled materials. In fact, we can proudly say that we save the equivalent in weight of 300 double decker buses of PVC-U going to landfill annually by using recycled PVC-U in our manufacturing.

Inspiring the whole industry

Looking to the future, the company has taken the view that it’s not just about us, it’s about the bigger picture; we take our impact on the environment seriously. The aim is to set a realistic target with the intention of encouraging others in the industry, from all levels of the supply chain, to adopt the same ideas – taking up the challenge to increase the amount of plastic being recycled.

We have shown that it is possible to achieve this, through producing products that are manufactured with 100% recycled materials, without compromising on quality or price. We want to inspire the industry to join suit and commit to using an increased level of recycled materials. We hope to help achieve our vision that all PVC-U cable management solutions installed in buildings are manufactured using recycled material by 2028.

Our environmental story has been evolving and enhancing for more than 20 years. It is exciting for us to see the impact it is having both on the environment and on the industry as a whole, but to achieve our vision we need for those within our sector to join the movement towards a more sustainable future.