With the many ways to manufacture windows / doors and every different style available, the materials used and their impact on the environment can be the last thing on your mind.
People may be under the assumption that timber is imported from places like the Amazon rain forest where illegal logging is rife and a definite cause for concern. It is not so widely known that all timber imported has to conform to strict import laws and is regulated by organizations such as the FSC (http://www.fsc-uk.org/) and the PEFC (http://www.pefc.co.uk/).
With forests now having to be sustainable, timber has become the only carbon neutral building material that is both biodegradable and fully recyclable.
uPVC (plasticized poly vinyl chloride) windows and doors have there merits to the building industry making the overall re-vamp of a building cheaper but with most things there are always drawbacks, The recyclability of uPVC items is very difficult due to the mix of both metal fittings, glass and plastic. An attempt was made to create a EU-wide recycling system but with the mix of each element involved, it was proven to be a loss-maker resulting now in less than half the uPVC windows and doors being recycled. With these items being made from oil and £2 billion spent every year on replacements due to there lack of longevity and difficulties such as broken hinges, broken window catches etc there is a real problem with disposing of the old and broken frames..
Both timber and uPVC can give high levels of energy-efficiency but with timber being a stronger material the frame sections can be made smaller for thicker glass units.
So with timber being a very durable material when maintained properly, and maintenance options widely available, it may well out live the client purchasing the items.