Green drive delivers more than eco points
Meeting the needs of the environment – are we doing enough? The short answer to this has to be no.
That’s not because businesses operating within the building services field aren’t doing their bit – quite the opposite is true. British industry has undergone a sea change in the way it procures, manufactures and delivers products and services, but there is always more that can be done to reduce raw material usage, promote lean manufacturing, cut fuel usage and rationalise transport needs.
For many manufacturers these actions were initially taken in order to cut costs, with the environment being an unintended beneficiary. In recent years, however, the focus has shifted and every manufacturer worth its salt will have examined the environmental impact of its activities, with a good proportion instigating an action plan to improve environmental performance.
Marshall-Tufflex is a good example. We’ve introduced a raft of initiatives, large and small, all aimed at mitigating our impact at our various UK sites and the wider environment. Our most recent scheme is to install PIR sensors on all lights – it’s estimated our investment will be returned in two years, based on current electricity prices.
However, there is another driver pushing forward the environmental agenda – customers are demanding products that tick an increasing number of green boxes. So not only are producers continually auditing and improving their manufacturing processes, they must also give real consideration to making their product more eco-friendly.
At a product level, Marshall-Tufflex was an early adopter of a number of initiatives to improve the PVC industry’s eco credentials. It is a member of Vinyl 2010, a voluntary commitment by the European PVC industry to move towards accountable sustainability, and now uses lead free formulations for all products.
The business is also credited with being a PVC pioneer and has more than 60 years’ experience of working with the material. Manufacturing with PVC really does allow us to deliver on our mantra of ‘recycle and recycled’, since the material is 100% recyclable. The biggest problem we face is securing enough recyclate for reuse back into the production process. Much comes from the window industry with the recyclate offering higher impact resistance than typical internal grades and excellent colour stability, both assets for our products and systems. By using planned process scrap and recycling off-cuts we recover and re-use tonnes of material every year. It is also worth noting that PVC has a great environmental story of its own. Not only is it totally recyclable, it is long lasting, does not propagate fire and has proven life-cycle attributes that make it an equally suitable choice for construction materials when compared with timber, steel and aluminium.
But there is more to do. That’s why we’ve recently initiated a review of all our packaging via an external assessor, with the aim of reducing the amount of cardboard, wrapping etc used to protect our products during transportation. The Carbon Trust has audited our business, with the assessor commenting that it attained the highest score of any company he had visited. Furthermore, we are reviewing our lighting systems to assess potential energy savings. And all that’s on top of investing some £450,000 in a fleet of five new HGVs which use 20% less diesel. In addition, we regularly review our transport routes to minimise road miles and have a ‘multiple drop’ policy to ensure vehicle movements are rationalised.
Our aim to recycle as much material as possible from production plants and offices has delivered more than environmental benefits – in the last three years we have reduced the volume of material we send to landfill by as much as 80%, with the resultant saving in landfill costs. This is a staggering achievement of which we are very proud. But it has taken time, effort and commitment from senior management right down to the factory floor to achieve.
Undoubtedly there will be more areas we can address. But I wonder if the time is now right to consider how others within the supply chain might be able to get in on the act? According to a recent report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, 30% of the waste produced in the UK comes from construction and demolition. And Envirowise says that millions of tonnes of unused building materials are discarded every year. SWMPs (Site Waste Management Plans) do now place a responsibility on larger projects, but waste minimisation is such an integral part of the overall environmental picture that perhaps it should be embraced right across the industry. Logistics and cost will always be hurdles to be negotiated, but the continually rising cost of raw materials must at some stage pave the way for a wider range of materials to be recycled in a cost-effective manner. Manufacturers, suppliers, main contractors, sub-contractors, SMEs and sole traders all have their part to play – it’s just a case of finding the right script for each one.