AZEK’s FULL-CIRCLE PVC Recycling program helped it collect approximately 400M pounds of recycled product for reuse in 2020 — with the hope that this entire value-chain approach can disrupt the plastic waste paradigm meaningfully, as AZEK continues to scale up collection and processing.
When your mission is to revolutionize outdoor living to create a more sustainable future, your goals must reflect that to show intent and ambition. So, in 2021, The AZEK Company took the next big step in its sustainability journey: It pledged that it would recycle 1 billion pounds of materials annually by the end of 2026. Announced on the heels of launching its first state-of-the-art polyethylene-recycling plant along with its acquisition of leading polyvinyl chloride (PVC) recycler Return Polymers, CEO Jesse Singh believes the pledge — and the FULL-CIRCLE™ PVC Recycling program — is emblematic of how the company looks at sustainability, as a full circle.
Image credit: AZEK
“Our financial and sustainability goals are inextricably linked: Our business drives our approach to sustainability and our sustainability initiatives drive our business,” Singh says.
AZEK began its recycling journey in 2018, with an initial development of recycled material formulations and investments to upgrade manufacturing lines. To accelerate its use of recycled material, AZEK first had to figure out how to source and collect all that scrap. The challenge was not in using it, but in sourcing it. The company’s strategy focuses on sourcing, collecting and recycling three primary materials for recycling back into its manufacturing line: polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and wood flour. Recycled polyethylene and recycled wood flour had more established networks, while PVC proved to be modestly more challenging. One source for recycled PVC that AZEK was looking to explore was the scrap and waste generated from PVC-based building materials used in new construction and remodeling projects that would otherwise end up in landfills. With a diverse base of customers including distributors, dealers, contractors, and lumber yards across the United States, AZEK had multiple points of potential PVC collection but zero infrastructure at the state or municipality levels to tap into.
First, AZEK set up collection bins and established collection points along its value chain, including contractors, builders, dealers and distributors. Convenient, collapsible and storable 15-square-foot bins were delivered to AZEK’s participating distributors strategically located in popular PVC markets throughout the US, which then provided them to their key lumber yard customers for scrap collection. Lumber yards can either house the bins at their yard for contractors to collectively recycle their PVC scrap material or the bins can be provided to a contractor to fill them up on their jobsite. Once full, the lumber yard partner will pick up the bin from the jobsite and bring it back to their yard for pickup by the distributor. Once the distributor has aggregated enough bins for efficiency, AZEK will pick up and deliver the full bins to its PVC recycling facility in Ashland, OH.
In 2020, AZEK used approximately 400 million pounds of recycled product, including primarily recycled polyethylene, recycled PVC and recycled wood flour. That was up from approximately 290 million pounds in 2019.
Business Development Manager Ryan Manley says the program is helping pave the way to a more efficient and sustainable future for their industry.
“We’re working with our entire value chain. Our program helps contractors cut disposal costs and keeps PVC out of landfill. It’s a win-win,” he says.
His hope: that this entire value-chain approach can disrupt the plastic waste paradigm meaningfully as AZEK continues to scale up collection and processing en route to 2026.