The recycling process was established alongside supply chain partners for the refurbishment of Chalcots Estate in Camden 

Chalcots Estate glass recycling Mar2023

Glass recycling at Chalcots Estate in Camden, London

McLaren Construction has established a closed-loop recycling process for window glass at the Chalcots Estate in Camden, north London. 

According to the team, McLaren is the first UK contractor to deliver the process at scale, which was established alongside supply chain partners Powerday and Saint-Gobain. 

Powerday will collect and crush the window glass and the resulting cullet (crushed glass) will then be recycled back into window glass manufactured by Saint-Gobain. This will support glass production with a high recycled content.

Recycling of glass cullet saves on raw material extraction, reduces the energy needed for glass production and CO2 emitted, while also reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Saint-Gobain’s target is for more than 25% of its glass to be recycled from dismantled buildings by 2050. The proportion currently stands at less than 1%.

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

Tribe added: “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.”

The Chalcots Estate project will see the refurbishment of 644 aparments, in four 23-storey blocks, which includes the replacement of 24,000 sq m of cladding and 3,496 windows while around 3,500 residents remain in their homes. 

McLaren has also partnered with Alutrade who will be taking the end-of-life aluminium window frames back through the circular economy.

Window replacements for the project began in February 2023 and the refurbishment works are due to be completed in November 2024.