McLaren pioneers circular economy in window glass recycling with Camden Estate refurbishment.

McLaren Construction is the first UK contractor to deliver closed-loop recycling of window glass at scale in its refurbishment of 644 apartments at the Chalcots Estate in Camden where window replacements started in February this year.

McLaren has established the process with supply chain partners Powerday and Saint-Gobain. Powerday collects and crushes the glass; the resulting cullet (crushed glass) will then be recycled back into window glass manufactured by Saint-Gobain, which will support glass production with a high recycled content.

Recycling of glass cullet saves on raw material extraction, reduces energy needed for glass production and CO2 emitted and reduces waste sent to landfill. Saint-Gobain’s target is for more than 25% of its glass to be recycled from dismantled buildings (post-consumer cullet) by 2050, while the proportion currently stands at less than 1%.

McLaren was awarded the contract for refurbishment of four 23-storey blocks on the Chalcots Estate in January 2022. The works include replacement of 24,000 sq m of cladding and 3,496 windows while around 3,500 residents remain in their homes.

McLaren’s pre-construction director for facades, Claire Tribe, explained the challenge.

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Claire Tribe
Claire TribePre-Construction Facades

In principle, glass is infinitely recyclable but we don’t recycle enough of it and we haven’t got to grips with the challenges around higher-grade glass.

To make new flat glass with recycled material you need to start with good quality flat glass. Recycled bottles don’t give you the right quality. It’s not hard to recycle the off-cuts in a factory, but there are extra challenges once the glass has been installed. Windows have to be dismantled and transported without breaking them to avoid any contamination.

Recycling window glass at scale in this way is essential to providing manufacturers with a reliable flow of material so that they can commit to high levels of recycled content in new glass. What we have been able to do here is connect the circular economy and create capacity in the UK recycling sector for future construction projects.

As part of the Chalcots Estate refurbishment, McLaren has partnered with Alutrade who will be taking the end-of-life aluminium window frames back through the circular economy.

Supporting the circular economy is consistent with McLaren’s ambitions to be one of the UK’s most sustainable major contractors with significantly reduced CO2 emissions. McLaren is committed to achieving net zero carbon by 2025 for scope 1 and 2 emissions and by 2045 for scope 3 emissions.

The refurbishment works are scheduled to be completed in November 2024.