That theme was heard repeatedly during the recent Fesnterbau/Frontale 2004 profile exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany. Thomas W. Buttner, managing director of the German Window and Siding Assn. (VFF; Frankfurt), says the sector has for too long been too passive; its goal now is to influence politicians to promote housing and renovation investment. He says that if poor-sealing windows in Europe were replaced, the continent could save 36 million liters of heating oil, or €15 billion, a year.
The move appears to be paying off in some sectors. Danish politicians in February rescinded a tax on PVC building products. Werner Preusker, manager of PVC+, an industry lobby, says this was mainly due to the opening of Denmark''s first PVC recycling facility, a 50,000-tonnes/yr hydrolysis plant at Stigsnaes. He also reported that the city council of Magdeburg, Germany, which had previously outlawed PVC profiles in city-financed renovation projects, has reversed its decision.
Toward a sustainable win-win
All this bodes well for the sector, which is promoting its own voluntary environmental strategy, Vinyl 2010, to ensure used PVC is recycled, not landfilled. Ulrike Grawe, executive secretary of the European PVC Window Profile Assn. (EPPA; Brussels), says the industry is fulfilling its goals. Cadmium stabilizers were abandoned in 2001, and profile extruders have committed to reducing lead from 120,000 to 80,000 tonnes by 2010. A total waiver of lead-based stabilizers is planned for 2015, she says.
Collection and recycling of PVC profiles is increasing throughout Western Europe to the extent that France now has nationwide collection, and other countries are catching up—50% of the collected PVC should be recycled and coextruded into new PVC profiles by 2005.
But to sustain the recyclate, Europe needs to sell more PVC building products. Of total Western European PVC consumption, more than 61% is related to construction.
That, however, says Preusker, is still too little. "There is a huge potential in Scandinavia where PVC windows have only a 13% market share, as well as in Southern Europe where it is only 11%," he says. By contrast, Central Europe has a 57% share, topped by Great Britain with 83%. In the plastics pipe sector, Germany lags with just under 10% compared to more than 80% usage in public sewers in North America.
Nor are German profile extruders seeing much-needed increased demand. Dirk U. Hindrichs, president of lobby group Fenstermarket-plus.de (Frankfurt) says there is no government incentive to invest in housing. In 1990, more than 19 million window units (profiles and glass) were sold in West Germany, and this figure jumped to 26 million by 1996 in unified Germany. Last year the numbers sank to 13 million units.
Innovation helps the cause
An interesting new development, shown for the first time during the exhibition, from European profile extrusion leader Profine (Troisdorf, Germany) is its GlassWin System. Taking a technology previously used only with metal profiles, the company has been able, with the help of a specially developed two-component silicon adhesive from Dow-Corning (Seneffe, Belgium), to glue the glass panel directly to the inner PVC frame, eliminating the need for an exterior sash. The system reduces weight (allowing a larger glassed areas), eliminates the need for an inner profile support of steel, and allows assembly to be performed by robots, which increases accuracy, says Frank Suthoff, innovations manager at Profine.
Robert Colvin [email protected]
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