How Green Are Vinyl Windows? RESULTS INTRODUCTION

How Green Are Vinyl Windows?
Gracie Villa, Claire Hodson, Anthony Frascotti, Hannah Chambless
- There were no recorded incidents or complaints of damage to human
health through the operations of Oxy Vinyls Canada.
In this study, we conduct a lifecycle analysis of window frames made out of
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). The window frames that we examine start their life
as PVC in the Oxy Vinyls Canada Manufacturing plant in Thorold, Ontario; are
assembled out of that PVC at the Harvey Building Resources Manufacturing
Plant in Manchester, New Hampshire; and are distributed to homeowners
through Boston Building Resources in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the
manufacturing and distribution of these window frames bring with it a slew
of environmental externalities throughout the frame’s lifecycle. During production, PVC emits a carcinogenic gas that can have disastrous human health
and environmental implications. During transportation, a huge amount of
greenhouse gases are produced. In disposal, many PVC windows end up in
landfills. PVC is 100% recyclable, so we investigate to what degree these windows are being recycled. We also investigate what the industry is doing at all
points of the process in order to make the product more sustainable and how
customers feel about vinyl windows as opposed to the more traditional
wooden alternative.
- In addition, they have been diligent and successful at keeping their emissions at levels well below those that would cause harm to the environment.
- At the Harvey Plant, post-industrial waste is sent to a recycling facility to be
recycled into chips and re-used in the production of other PVC products.
50 mi
- There was an overwhelming preference for vinyl windows over wood windows as evidenced by the homeowner survey, and the disposal of old windows is split between being sent to a landfill and being removed by Grant
Disposal Company, separated into salvageable PVC parts, and recycled.
Wood vs. Vinyl
Vinyl windows are
more durable and well
850 mi
Vinyl windows are 20%
less costly over their life
time and last 10 years
- Harvey homeowner
longer than wood.
- Patricia Kandlaars
Figure 3. Responses to Suvey Question 8: Do
you prefer wood or vinyl windows?
We conducted our investigation using three research tools. We went on a
tour of the Harvey Manufacturing Plant to assess post-industrial PVC recycling and conduct employee interviews. Additionally, we surveyed
Harvey customers to determine the homeowners’ window preferences
and window disposal practices. Finally, we used scientific databases to
futher our understanding of the PVC life cycle and its externalities.
1 mile = 4
. 4kg CO2
Not Applicable
cannot be fixed. They
will eventually need
to be replaced.
Recycled them
- Harvey homeowner
Threw them in
the trash
Did You Replace Your Vinyl
Installer contracted
= 10% of respondents
Figure 1. Responses to Survery Question 7: What do you do
with your old vinyl windows?
Older vinyl windows
Figure 2. Responses to Survey Question
6: Did you have to replace you vinyl windows?
-Non-recycled PVC
frames often eventually end up in
landfills or are incinerated, which can
produce a harmful
toxin called dioxin
With increasing concern over the sustainability of the PVC life cycle, the recycling of this material by each company involved in the process becomes
ever more important in regards to the impacts on the environment and
human health. Oxy Vinyls Canada, Harvey Building Products and BBR all
state that sustainability is central to their mission, and their current efforts
reflect this promise. However, the disconnectedness among stakeholders
and the huge input of greenhouses gases from transport and production
necessitate a more integrated to PVC window production and recycling.
1) Develop a collection system in which consumers return their used window frames and
receive a deposit paid at the time of purchase. This incentivizes consumers to keep their
old window frames out of landfills.
2) Implement alternative energy sources for production plants and alternative fuels for
transport of PVC material
U.S. EPA (2006). Vinyl Chloride. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.
"Wooden windows vs. PVC windows." Kalesyee. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. <>.
Stichnothe, Heinz, and Adisa Azapagic. "Life Cycle Assessment of Recycling PVC Window Frames." Resources, Conservation and Recycling 71 (2013): 40-47.
2014 Report for 2013 Emissions: Oxy Vinyls Canada Thorold, Ontario Plant. Fort Erie: Niagara Community Awareness And Emergency Response Group, 2014.
Sevenster, Arjen. "The PVC Process Explained." N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2015. <>.
Harvey building products. (2015). Retrieved 03/25, 2015, from