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How the right cables can reduce the embodied carbon on your project

Net Zero

Specifying cable management that uses recycled content can be a quick and effective ‘environmental win’, according to Alan Goode, Business Development Manager (Specification) at Marshall-Tufflex.

We are living in an era where climate change is hard to ignore. Last year, the UK experienced some of the most extreme weather events – from scorching temperatures and torrential rainfalls – and watched as other parts of the world suffered from devastation caused by monsoons, flooding, prolonged droughts and hurricanes. These extreme weather cases are set to continue and putting measures in place to address these is now a responsibility for us all.

The impact of the built environment

As part of this, improving the sustainability of our buildings is a huge focus. The UK’s built environment is responsible for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and emits carbon in two ways: through the energy consumed day-to-day (operational carbon); and the CO2 emitted in producing materials and products – from the extraction of raw materials, to manufacturing, to installation in the building, as well as their disposal at the end of their life (embodied carbon).

For some time, the emphasis has been placed on reducing the operational carbon with measures that improve energy efficiency and reducing the emissions associated with energy usage – such as lighting, heating, and ventilation. However, to truly achieve net zero by 2050 and tackle the climate emergency that is on the horizon, embodied carbon must also be considered – from the planning stages and design of a building through its life cycle and demolition – and every person in the supply chain has a role to play in reducing this.

As a result, building owners and developers are increasingly using sustainable practices as a factor for selecting suppliers and contractors, with many looking for ways to include more low carbon and low waste materials.

How can cable management reduce embodied carbon?

With all of this in mind, it has never been more important to look closely at each element of a project and identify where simple improvements can be made. One such area is the use of responsibly-sourced plastic products, especially cable management systems. 

Whilst often overlooked as a contributor to embodied carbon, cable management can in fact, represent a substantial component of an interior fit-out, especially for larger buildings and sizeable developments. As such, it is worth considering the level of recycled content used in the manufacture of any PVC-U cable management systems specified – as here there is a real opportunity to have a positive impact on a project. It really can be a simple, and often cost neutral, way to help reduce embodied carbon and divert materials away from landfill.

This approach is reinforced by research undertaken by the Sustainable Industrial Systems Group at the University of Manchester, which uncovered the scale of the carbon savings that can be made by utilising recycled PVC-U content. Its study determined, for example, that a PVC-U window manufactured using recycled content has between 17 and 20 times less embodied carbon than those manufactured from virgin plastic.

So, what should specifiers be looking for when it comes to cable management solutions that offer this environmental benefit?

The recycled content used in the production process for conduit and trunking can be sourced from either post-industrial PVC-U waste, such as discarded material and off-cuts from manufacturing, and post-consumer waste from products such as PVC-U windows removed from buildings. 

For example, in 2022, PVC-U cable management products from Marshall-Tufflex were manufactured using 69% recycled material across the range, while the company’s all-white conduit, Mini and Maxi trunking lengths are currently manufactured using between 80 and 100% recycled material.

If other manufacturers took this stance, the benefits would be huge – which is why Marshall-Tufflex is calling on specifiers and everyone in the supply chain to choose products with a minimum of 50% recycled material, for it to become the industry norm by 2028.

Choosing products from a trusted manufacturer will help to ensure that the recycling process has not compromised the quality, durability or appearance of the products. Specifically, only selecting products from manufacturers which implement a rigorous quality testing regime to ensure products meet all quality expectations. 

Sustainability is now a key consideration in the specification of building materials and products. Choosing PVC-U cable management solutions with recycled content from trusted manufacturers is a simple and cost neutral way of reducing embodied carbon and waste and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Alan Goode
Alan Goode
Business Development Manager (Specification) at Marshall-Tufflex

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