It has long been a challenge in the building community to identify a cladding product that can be recycled. You can’t recycle brick or wood that has been painted. Aluminum siding can be recycled, but there is not much demand for aluminum siding these days. Vinyl siding is the only cladding product that can be recycled multiple times into new vinyl siding.
As consumers, not only do we need to understand what can be recycled but we need to know where the product is in its life cycle, because many products can’t continue to be recycled into equal quality products. For example, we all recycle plastic bottles but plastic bottles rarely get recycled into plastic bottles, they are typically downcycled into a lower quality product that will eventually be disposed of in a landfill.
In response to market demand for a sustainable vinyl siding product we created a “closed loop” (cradle to cradle) program that enables our CedarBoards™ Insulated siding product to be manufactured with 60 percent recycled content that includes post-consumer vinyl siding (tearoffs and construction scrap).
Using our distributors around the country, we developed a partnership with recyclers who leave bins at our partner distributors. Contractors can bring old vinyl siding and scraps to the distributors. This eliminates the tipping fees that the contractor would pay at the landfill. The scraps and old vinyl are recycled to our specifications and we buy it back from the recyclers. It’s a win-win-win-win situation. The contractor can promote that he is recycling materials and he saves on fees. The distributor can sell the fact that he is “green” and has established this program for contractors which gains visibility with potential customers. The recycler has a committed, paying customer for the recycled product, and we are able to bring to market a sustainable vinyl siding product. This is one way we can control the waste stream.
A plastic product is the best course for our sustainable future because it enables us to have that constant closed loop process. Since we have already put all the resources into the product the following manufacturing process has minimal environmental impact. By recycling and re-manufacturing, we are not further depleting natural resources, but are reducing energy consumption and our carbon footprint.
We will be providing life-cycle information on the CedarBoards products later in the year that will illustrate the life-cycle benefits based on science for these products.
Sustainability is not only about the product’s environmental performance, it also includes resource management. Manufacturers need to be developing products that the masses can afford that are environmentally sustainable.
Drew Brandt, LEED AP, CGP is Director of Marketing – New Product Development for CertainTeed Vinyl Siding