Recycling matters

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Paul Hetherington, CEO at Marshall-Tufflex, discusses the environmental benefits of selecting PVC-U cable management systems manufactured from recycled materials. 

Urgent changes are required to limit an irreversible climate change catastrophe, and there are only 12 years to do so; this is according to a landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in October 2018. Waste, recycling and landfill have come under the spotlight since, as landfill sites release toxins, leachate and greenhouse gases into the air. 

Figures have shown that the construction industry uses around 420 million tonnes of materials each year, and from these materials almost 120 million tonnes are wasted – approximately 60% of the national total. 

These figures make it clear that the construction industry has a huge role to play in waste reduction. While changes have been made, a lack of awareness about the options available, as well as some commonly held misconceptions, have, in some areas, limited the adoption of more sustainable alternatives. 

Plastic in particular has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, largely in part due to the harrowing images shown in the final episode of the BBC series, Blue Planet II. The images highlighted the incredibly slow rate that plastic waste degrades, and often ends up in the ocean. Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities, which is damaging to the marine wildlife.

However, by recycling this plastic instead, it is saved from the fate of the landfill or becoming marine waste, and further pollution to the environment is avoided. Any manufacturing process that allows for this is therefore of huge benefit.

Making a difference

Acknowledging this, the PVC-U cable management sector is increasingly introducing recycled content into its production. For example, Marshall-Tufflex is committed to its recycling initiative and has made the conscious decision to do this – with a product portfolio that is been produced using 80% recycled material. This means that the amount of PVC-U being saved from reaching landfill each year by Marshall-Tufflex alone, is the weight of 300 double decker buses.

Marshall-Tufflex is also challenging competitors to follow suit – with a call for the industry to move towards using at least 50% recycled material in manufacture by 2028. This would make a significant impact to the environmental performance of the cable management sector and contribute hugely to a circular economy.  

In fact, a study undertaken by Manchester University that enabled companies to estimate the ‘cradle to grave’ carbon footprint of their products, showed that recycled PVC-U offers a 20-fold reduction in greenhouse gases compared to a virgin product. 

The right materials

Of course, buying habits are what influence manufacturers’ decisions, so there is a need for specifiers to understand the choices available and ultimately select products that are environmentally responsible. There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account when selecting materials for a build. 

Durability is a key priority for specifiers, and unfortunately there is still a common misconception that the use of recycled PVC-U results in a lower quality product. The reality is that the recycled post-industrial waste PVC-U used for cable management systems most commonly originates from window frames – a grade of plastic designed to withstand external elements. Once processed and reused, the material still holds the same characteristics. Strict quality controls from credible manufacturers will constantly monitor the quality of the recycled material and ensure it provides a durable and smooth finish. 

The product should also comply with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) standards which concern the production and its use of chemicals and their impact on both the environment and human health. Furthermore, the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Accreditation demonstrates that manufacturers have taken steps to reduce their impact on the environment throughout their business.

Finally, an effective way for those specifying cable management products to be sure of their environmental impact, is to work with transparent manufacturers who can clearly show how much recycled content is used in each product. Marshall-Tufflex has developed its Recycled PVC-U Calculator for this reason – by entering product codes and quantities, the calculator shows the percentage of recycled material used and how much recycled material in kilograms (kg) has ultimately been saved from landfill.  

Contractors and specifiers have a role to play in helping prevent further environmental damage over the next decade. By specifying and installing only PVC-U cable management solutions with recycled content from trusted manufacturers, a significant difference can be made.