When back in the early seventies the BBC screened a science themed drama series called ‘Doomwatch,’ some of the plots seemed far fetched, with episodes about terrorists planting atomic bombs, and airliners crashing because a research laboratory had let loose a bacteria which effectively ate plastic.
The world changes, of course, and while Western governments are trying to track down the enriched uranium missing from nuclear plants in various countries, a rather different problem relating to plastic products has emerged.
Due to its ease of maintenance, PVC has largely taken over from timber and even metal for the manufacture of many building components, including window frames, cladding, guttering and drainage systems. Durability, though, turns out to be a double edged sword with issues such as discolouration or degradation of fixing points bringing a premature end to the products’ working life, even though it will take hundreds of years for most profiles to decompose naturally.
There are now chemicals, such as lanthanum oxide, which can be used along with heat to accelerate the decomposition process; while some manufacturers operate recycling plants which chip, screen and remould post-consumer profiles. Indeed the industry claims that PVC profiles could be reground and reused a dozen or more times, though the evidence is based on laboratory rather than factory trials.
However, far too much PVC and other building related plastics still go to landfill, and that is a luxury the planet can no longer afford. Which is why we at Plastic Surgeon advocate extending the working life of PVC products for as long as possible: through the use of cost effective repair techniques.
Every day around the country, dozens of our highly trained finishers are called to sites or private properties to carry out different repairs to damaged door and window frames, fascias, cladding panels, trims and other extrusions or mouldings.
Sometimes the damage is relatively slight – such as a scratch or burn mark on a window cill, which can be quite easily sanded out using a gradation of abrasive pads, ending with a fine rubbing compound. More serious scrapes and actual holes have to be patched and rebuilt using our proprietary fillers, before the repair is smoothed again and colour matched.
Then Plastic Surgeon has even developed a repair technique, which borders on the realms of science fiction where the finishers exploit the fact that PVC has a ‘memory,’ and can be coaxed back to its original shape using carefully applied heat.
Which means that our nationwide network of finishers has been making a significant contribution to cutting waste in the building industry over recent years. And since early last year, our VisibilITy software system has enabled customers to see exactly what quantity and weight of products have been repaired rather than replaced.
Figures for last year indicated 319 tonnes of window frames, doors, cladding, cills, meter boxes and other PVC materials were successfully repaired, saving clients hundreds of thousands of pounds on the escalating cost of skips, together with the purchase price and labour involved in replacement.
It is a campaign we shall continue, for the results of failing to take action could be far scarier than Doomwatch ever was.