UPVC windows are marketed as waterproof, indestructible and long-lasting, but their production takes up large amounts of energy and creates much more pollution than wood windows. They also degrade and end up in landfills.
UPVC windows were once thought of as a modern advancement for housing. Advertised as almost soundproof, they were a popular choice for construction companies and conscientious homeowners wanting to tighten their security. After years of manufacturing UPVC windows, their dark side became apparent.
Making new UPVC windows involves adding softeners and stabilisers such as phthalates, cadmium and lead. These are neurotoxic and can cause cognitive decline in children, kidney disease and cancers. Chemicals that leach from the plastic might end up in breast milk.
UPVC windows produce more greenhouse gases than wood window frames. They use nearly double the amount of resources compared with traditional non-plastic windows. Chlorine is needed to manufacture UPVC, and its production relies on the nuclear power industry.
Short Shelf Life
UPVC windows only last 20 years. One report from the Society of Preservation of Buildings (2004) found that 40% of windows last five years before they begin to degrade. When this happens, they cannot be repaired. This is wasteful and expensive since the homeowner then must purchase new windows. When exposed to sunlight, UPVC gradually breaks down, emitting vinyl chloride, a toxic gas, into the home.
Recycling UPVC windows is one solution to the problem. Recycling ensures that no plastic ends up in the landfill, easing air pollution. Recycling conserves existing resources and lowers demand for new products, making plastic a more sustainable product. It also reduces the emissions associated with the manufacture of plastics. Therefore, recycling helps keep the environment safer and cleaner for future generations.