Materials made from oil, such as plastics, have a serious responsibility for negative impacts on nature and also on human health. Unfortunately, microplastics have recently been detected in breast milk. This is due to the fact that the market is unable to absorb this waste for recycling. In addition to the serious negative environmental impacts of their production, they inevitably end up in unsuitable destinations that are harmful to the environment and human life, such as the oceans, where it is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish!

Every day we are bombarded with new types of plastic, including those used in the construction sector, but plastic can take up to 400 years to decompose. Most plastics in use cannot be recycled, as they are difficult to dispose of and neither degrade nor decompose. And it’s no different with the type of oil derivatives used in construction. For example, PVC, which is widely used in the manufacture of window frames.

These frames may have good thermal performance, but the environmental cost is devastating. When this type of material is recycled, it loses its quality and continues to fall in quality until it can no longer be recycled. In the environment, they can also hinder the decomposition of other waste, reinforcing the overcrowding of landfills and even encouraging the appearance of illegal landfills, and the inevitable fate, the sea…

Recycling these products often creates a misconception that they are sustainable materials. Although they can be recycled, there is no market to absorb so much recycled plastic. The solution is therefore to stop producing it. To stop being produced, it must stop being used in all areas of our lives, whenever there are alternatives. For example, both for insulation and for window frames, there are viable alternatives with excellent thermal and acoustic performance and a very low environmental impact. Alternative solutions are therefore the solution to this problem. They should be chosen whenever possible.

In this article I’ll give the example of aluminum as an alternative to PVC, which is a much more sustainable material. Firstly, aluminum is much more durable than plastic and can withstand long-term use, which makes it perfect for reuse. In fact, around 75% of the aluminum ever manufactured is still used today. Aluminum is a light and malleable metal, but it’s also very strong, infinitely recyclable (which means it doesn’t lose its quality when recycled, unlike plastic) and recycling aluminum saves more than 90% of the energy needed to produce new aluminum. If the energy comes from clean sources, we have a perfect material.

One of the great advantages of aluminum frames is that they are long-lasting and resistant to the elements, including corrosion from the weather, salt spray and climatic variations. These frames have a long service life and require little maintenance over the years of use, which is also an asset in terms of sustainability.

For all these reasons, and if we look at it from an environmental perspective, aluminum is a sustainable alternative to petroleum derivatives, which have numerous negative impacts. In conclusion, opting for this type of material in the construction sector is a great choice as it offers a number of advantages that will add even more value to the property as it is a durable product with low environmental costs and easy maintenance.

october, 2022

Aline Guerreiro, PCS

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