A circular business model with VELUX

Date: 06/11/2020

Topic: Building , Lighting , Energy & Offshore , Medico , Transport , Electronics & Packing Tubes , Refrigeration & HVAC , Sustainability

Written by: Lichtenberg

Zero-waste plastic profile production at Primo and window manufacturer Velux.

Primo extrudes window profiles for a number of window manufacturers, including Danish VELUX, which produces window frames in Slovakia for the European market. From Berlin, Primo delivers the profiles to VELUX in long pieces. VELUX then cuts the profiles to bevel the ends before the windows are assembled and mounted. That process generates two residual products, cut-off from the bevelled ends and dust from the milling stations at VELUX. Both are pure plastic products.

For that reason, they are well suited for recycling, says Jan Pedersen. He is Primo’s Key Account Manager for VELUX and other customers. Jan Pedersen has worked with VELUX since 2011 and has worked for Primo for more than 30 years. “During the early 2010s, we sat down with VELUX, to find out how we could lower the costs. What began as a wish to save, turned into the starting point of a green business model with great potential, not just in terms of the cooperation between VELUX and Primo but for the whole industry,” says Jan Pedersen.

Hundreds of tonnes of plastic cut-off are recycled

The cooperation with VELUX is unique in many ways. Primo supplies profiles that consist of two different types of PVC plastic, one soft and one rigid. These two plastic materials are chosen so they can be granulated and recycled in one single process. The only disadvantage of that is that the process discolours the plastic: But Jan Pedersen solved that challenge by using the recycled plastic for mounting frames that are hidden under the roof. For that reason, more than 50 pct. of the plastic
used for these frames can consist of recycled plastic. On an annual basis, hundreds of tonnes of cut-off are recycled. The recycled plastic is transported from Slovakia back to Berlin on the same trucks that delivered Primo’s profiles to VELUX. That way, the trucks avoid returning home empty.

“The alternative was driving plastic waste to a landfill. Instead, we now have a sensible business model for recycling it. The waste is just as good as the raw material we would otherwise have bought. Considering that the price for the raw material, it makes economic sense to recycle,” says Jan Pedersen.

A formula for circular business models

The ample support behind the project from VELUX is not unique. There is ubiquitous interest in establishing models for plastic recycling, and Primo is well underway to develop a formula for circular business models.

“We have created a zero-waste culture at Primo. Our investments in machinery and our knowledge about the materials will soon let us offer a guarantee that we can take back entire windows after many years of use. Recycled plastic is a resource for all stakeholders,” says Jan Pedersen.

Recycling plastic multiple times

Currently, Primo is intensively studying what happens to the recycling properties of plastic over time. This work is part of a cooperation with laboratories, which are testing pigmentation, heat stability and other parameters in recycled plastic. In many cases, there is no difference at all between the original product and the recycled product. In other cases, it loses some of its properties. It is in these cases we need to obtain a deep understanding of the materials. Using the right processes, additives, and a mix of new material and recycled plastic, Primo can produce profiles within
tolerance levels. That is particularly crucial when plastic is recycled in several stages.

Plastic can be a part of the solution

“We are still in the early phase and can see that a lot is happening in this field across the entire organisation. We have re-grinders in all production units, and our customers are very interested in discussing the perspectives. When you compare plastic to other products, it is clear that plastic has some recycling properties you don’t see in other materials. That gives us confidence that - if treated wisely - plastic can be a green material, which can be part of the solution to our global challenges,” says Claus Tønnesen, CEO at Primo. 

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