SGGUK on environmental responsibility

Achieving a Window Energy Rating of C or above is the absolute minimum a window company can do to meet its environmental obligations but, when it comes to being environmentally responsible, businesses should seek out suppliers which go beyond the call of duty to reduce their impact on the environment, claims Rachel Appleyard, product manager at Saint-Gobain Glass.

Saint-Gobain Glass supplies the perfect product to achieve a Window Energy Rating of C or higher, and thus comply with the revised Building Regulations which come into effect in October. Many regard SGG PLANITHERM TOTAL+ as the best product on the market, and it was designed specifically to help windows achieve the best possible Window Energy Rating.

However, WERs only consider the final product, and do nothing to reflect the impact the product’s components had on the environment during their manufacture. At Saint-Gobain Glass, we believe that it is the duty of every manufacturer to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce what is sent to landfill, and recycle material wherever possible.


In a nutshell, the aim of Approved Document L of the Building Regulations is to reduce the amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by buildings. Windows with a Window Energy Rating of a C or above keep buildings warmer for longer and reduce the reliance on the heating system, which leads to less carbon emissions.

Reduction in CO2 emissions is also a priority focus of Saint-Gobain’s environmental policy. CO2 emissions from glass furnaces today average 581kg/tonne (compared to 614kg/tonne in 2006). Depending on the type of glass, average per-tonne emissions vary from 480kg in the packaging sector to 725kg in flat glass. One way to reduce CO2 emission levels is by feeding back recycled materials into the production process. In glass production, the inclusion of one tonne of cullet, avoids 255kg-300kg of CO2 emission.

At Saint-Gobain Glass, we don’t just look at the float process, we look at the business as a whole to see what areas can be improved. Through this we have highlighted areas for improvement, with some of the most noteworthy being the reduction in warehouse heating and lighting and a general campaign to raise awareness about the need to turn off lights and computers from which we have seen a large reduction in the use of unnecessary energy.


In 2002 we set ourselves the challenge of recycling ratio of 40%. By April 2009, we had achieved a peak of 57%, averaging out at 45.5% over the year. The ongoing success of our recycling practice hasn’t happened by accident.

Primarily, we have reduced the amount of waste that we produce. We have done this in a number of ways, including reducing packaging, re-filling and re-using printer cartridges, baling our waste cardboard allowing us to send it to a local recycling mill and reusing the drums many of our raw materials are delivered in.

We have also monitored the success of our waste disposal programme against the number of people employed by Saint-Gobain Glass. From this we observed that between 2001 and 2008 the amount of waste reduced from 55 tonnes per person per year, to just 7 tonnes and despite the cost of landfill rising significantly, we have still managed to reduce the cost of disposing of our waste over the same period.

These figures have accompanied a dramatic fall in the amount of waste that we send to landfill: 6,370 tonnes in 2001, reduced to just 190 tonnes by the beginning of 2009 which represents a 97% reduction in our waste.

Cullet Returns

The biggest contributor to our recycling programme is cullet. Our pioneering cullet return scheme helps us to use 30% recycled material in the manufacture of our float glass – more than any other float glass producer. This diverts waste glass away from landfill, results in fewer empty lorries on the road, and uses less energy and fewer raw materials in the manufacturing process, which, in turn, produces less of the greenhouse gas CO2.

To support our customers, we have produced a CD and brochure that is sent out to any business using our cullet returns scheme telling them how to make money by returning their cullet to us.

All they have to do is fill the bags that we provide with cullet, which we take away once full. We then pay them monthly, based on the weight of the returned cullet. The service is free to join, we provide all the equipment for free, and there is full technical support should our customers need it. We even take away non-Saint-Gobain glass.

In some ways it is a shame that WERs encourages us to focus on the energy performance of a window, but doesn’t take into account the manufacturing process behind it. If you are serious about the reduction of greenhouse gases, then you should be serious about sourcing material from environmentally conscious companies.


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