I have always wondered about the benefits of uPVC, and as a skeptic I have been unconvinced. How can something that is basically produced from oil, and require a large scale manufacturing process possibly be eco-friendly? In this article I investigate manufacturers’ claims to their so-called excellent eco-credentials.
Firstly, to get started we must understand what uPVC actually is. uPVC is an abbreviation of plasticized polyvinyl chloride, which is a rigid and also a chemically resistant form of PVC. To get further into it, PVC itself is produced through the polymerization of the monomer called vinyl chloride and of course uPVC is the un-plasticized version. Remember plastic is a state, not a material. The properties of this material have been developed over the decades, so much so that it has found its use in a whole range of products, namely uPVC doors and windows. The reason for this is that it is durable and low maintenance but it also appears to be quite harmless. Historically when uPVC came into fashion it wasn’t quite as well regulated. I knew that it contained toxic chemicals and the manufacturing processes produced a lot of carbon emissions.
So what changed?
After years of objection from environmentalists, manufacturers of uPVC started to get their act together. Major investment was made in greener technology, greener alternatives and greener manufacturing. uPVC waste started being diverted away from landfill sites. Company policy has been a factor in the improvement of manufacturing uPVC, with tough policies having been set to help with not only the company’s goal at being greener but also to improve public relations. As the government drew our attention to carbon footprints, companies began to look more closely at how their products were being made and what impact they were having on the environment. One change these manufacturers have made is moving to a waste-recycle system whereby what is not used is then re-used in the next batch of products. Some products will be made entirely from recycled waste. This has also made the whole process considerably more sustainable as even old uPVC doors can be fully recycled.
If you compare this to other plastics you’ll discover that due to uPVC’s high chlorine percentage (around 57%), there is considerable savings in oil as chlorine is a derivative of common salt which is abundant. This looks particularly good against plastics made entirely from oil. uPVC, contrary to popular belief, actually has a very long life span and you can expect your uPVC door to last well over 50 years – Long enough that it’s likely you will have moved by then. More than half of all PVC products have a life span over 15 years plus.
The other cost saving, carbon footprint pleasing benefit is to have uPVC doors and windows in your own home. On a more personal financial level you will notice your home to be a much better insulated place, and a well-insulated home costs a lot less to heat.
Having looked more thoroughly into uPVC alternatives of modern times, I can see we that we really must not be as afraid, as after many years of scrutiny it is less likely that these manufacturers do more damage than a lot of un-scrutinised industries. The only thing to really consider is what style of door you want.
Jason King is an experienced door fitter for over 25 years and regularly contributes to blogs on behalf of Value Doors.