The PVC window as a “circular window” in the light of European Standardization
The technical committees have three years to implement mandate M/584 on the standardisation of recycled plastics and plastics recycling. This is a highly ambitious goal, considering how long it usually takes to work on European standards until they are formally and substantively approved by the parties involved. In this article, you will learn what is special about this mandate and to what extent plastic windows are affected by it.
PVC windows as an example of sustainability
When it comes to sustainability, especially the circular economy of plastic products, PVC windows are often used as an example. On the one hand, this results from the fact that more than twenty years ago the industry created a cycle through which old plastic windows can be removed, collected, separated according to materials such as PVC, glass and metal, and the recycled PVC (rPVC) obtained can be used again in new PVC windows. This closes the circle. On the other hand, plastic windows are durable building products with a service life of 30 to 40 years. In contrast to plastic windows, the conditions for other product families to proceed in this or a similar way are far less favourable due to their diversity. The fact that only one third of plastic waste is recycled is not only due to the complexity, but also to the lack of quality standards - this is a frequently expressed opinion.
With the present standardisation mandate from the Commission to CEN and CENELEC - a result of the Circular Plastics Alliance - the foundation is now to be laid for defining quality requirements for plastic waste, recyclates and product families. This should help to significantly increase recycling rates in order to reach the target of 10 million tonnes of recycled material. The mandate prompts the creation of 10 new sets of standards with a focus on design-for-recycling, as well as the updating of 11 existing standards with the recycling idea in mind.
New standards packages2:
- Evaluation of the recyclability of plastic packaging
- Definitions and principles for the design-for-recycling of plastic packaging
- Design-for-Recycling standards for plastic packaging
- Design-for-Recycling standards for plastic products in construction (flooring, thermal insulation, cables, membranes, pipes and profiles)
- Design-for-Recycling Standards of plastic products for electrical and electronic articles
- Design-for-Recycling standards of plastic products for the automotive industry
- Design-for-Recycling Standards of plastic products for agricultural purposes
- Standards for the quality classification of sorting waste for HDPE, LDPE, PP, PET, PVC, PS, EPS.
- A standard for the characterisation of ABS recyclate
- Standards for the quality assessment of the recycled plastics rHDPE, rLDPE, rPP, rPET, rPVC, rPS, rEPS and rABS for use in new plastic products.
Furthermore, already existing packages of standards are to be updated. This concerns:
- EN 15347:2007 Plastics - Recycled plastics - Characterisation of plastic waste.
- EN 15342:2007 Plastics - Recycled plastics - Characterisation of PS recyclate.
- EN 15344:2007 Plastics - Recycled plastics - Characterisation of PE recyclate.
- EN 15345:2007 Plastics - Recycled plastics - Characterisation of PP recyclate.
- EN 15346:2007 Plastics - Recycled plastics - Characterisation of recycled PVC.
- EN 15348:2014 Plastics - Plastic recyclates - Characterisation of PET recyclate.
- EN 13206:2017 Plastics - Thermoplastic cover films for agricultural and horticultural use.
- EN 13207:2018 Plastics - Thermoplastic silage films and tubes for agricultural use
- EN 17098-1:2018 Plastics - Barrier films for disinfection by fumigation of agricultural and horticultural soils
- EN 14932:2018 Plastics - Thermoplastic stretch films for wrapping silage bales
- EN 13655: 2018 Plastics - Thermoplastic mulch films for agricultural and horticultural use, degradable after use
The special feature now is that large parts of the manufacturing and processing plastics industry are called upon to create qualities and specifications taking into account the value chains, which is the prerequisite for circular economy. In this way, the previous practice of creating standards predominantly for and within one's own product families is to be further developed into more coordination and cooperation.
Without a doubt, M/584 poses great challenges to the plastics industry: As a task with a very narrow time horizon and in terms of the great need for work and coordination. Nevertheless, it is a unique opportunity to constructively shape the transition to circular economies through European standards.
Qualitätsverband Kunststofferzeugnisse e.V., RAL Gütegemeinschaft Kunststoff-Fensterprofilsysteme e.V., Bonn
2 Translation mutatis mutandis