Royal Marks 10 Years of Recycling Efforts

February 2, 2012

For nearly a decade, Royal Building Products has been working to expand the sustainable nature of vinyl building products by partnering with outside fabricators, building contractors and other organizations to ensure that their scrap and unused inventory is recycled rather than sent to a landfill.  Company officials report significant progress has been made with its "take-back" programs.

 Reground vinyl scrap at a Royal facility

“Royal is committed to sustainable manufacturing, and that includes recycling PVC scrap,” says Mark Orcutt, executive vice president. “We have regrind machines set up in each of our facilities throughout North America. We recycle 100 percent of our scrap produced internally, and the recycled PVC is then shared throughout our organization and incorporated into new building products. What our window and door business can’t use because of the need for higher purity is sent to our siding business. And what our siding business can’t use is sent to our pipe business, which can use all types of recycled PVC.”

The effort began in 2002 as a pilot project involving Royal's pipe business in Western Canada. The company worked with the city of Abbottsford, British Columbia and a local contractor to recycle scrap pipe discarded during the installation of municipal water mains and sewage lines.

In 2008, Royal’s Window and Door Profiles business rolled out its own take-back program that initially included 16 fabricators in eastern Canada. The program focuses on recycling the scrap materials–end cuts–that are a byproduct of the fabricators’ manufacturing process.

Before scrap is collected from fabricators in the field can be recycled, all non-PVC material–such as hardware, weather stripping and dirt, if the material is waste from a construction site–must be removed. Then, the scrap PVC is fed into a grinder, and the small pellets that emerge are combined with virgin PVC compound and extruded into new pipe, vinyl siding, decking, fences, window and door components, and other building materials, explains Andre Touchette, regional president for Royal Window and Door Profiles in Montreal.

“We are finding that a majority of fabricators are getting requests from consumers about their environmental footprint,” Touchette says. “Some of our largest customers are now promoting the presence of recycled materials in their products.” 

In addition to the environmental advantages, Royal customers are finding that recycling vinyl building products offers other benefits. In Canada, for example, manufacturers are taxed on waste volume. Royal’s take-back program enables its fabricating customers to receive a tax break–as well as the payment received for each pound of recyclable scrap that is returned.

“Over time, we want to expand our efforts from post-fabrication recycling to post-consumer recycling,” Touchette notes. “There are strong efforts moving forward to put a post-consumer take-back program in place, but there is currently not enough volume of product to justify the investment.”

The primary hurdle, he explains, is that vinyl windows and doors last so long that it could be years before a meaningful volume of material is available to be recycled.  The longevity of vinyl building products, however, has not deterred Royal operations from working to recapture and reuse more PVC scrap, officials note.

 More Royal fabricator customers promote the fact that their vinyl extrusions incorporate recycled content.

At Royal’s mouldings, trim and decking facility in southwestern Virginia, the company has a customer take-back program for end cuts and mitered corners, as well as PVC saw dust. During the first half of 2011, the plant in Marion had recaptured more than 86,000 pounds of recyclable material compared with nearly 52,300 pounds in 2010.

“We view the take-back program as an opportunity to partner with our customers to do the right thing for our communities,” says Brian Thomas, plant manager for the Marion facility. “It can help prolong the life of current landfills and reduce the amount of natural resources that must be consumed to produce virgin products.”

“We have a good story to tell,” says Touchette. “As environmentalists compare the cradle-to-grave impacts of our products and alternative materials, the perception of PVC and vinyl building products is steadily improving.”