Axion launches ‘Design for Recycling’ service

Axion has launched a new ‘Design for Recycling’ service aimed at helping the plastic packaging value chain ensure that packaging placed on the market has been optimised for end of life, while maintaining its primary function of product protection

The service is aimed at a range of stakeholders in the food and beverage supply chain. This includes packaging designers, food manufacturers, brand owners and retailers who all have a vested interest in increasing the recyclability of plastic packaging and addressing the growing global problem of pollution from this short life, high profile products.

This unique service could also support those working with industry initiatives to increase the recycling of plastics and develop end markets for recycled plastics. These include Courtauld 2025, the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP), the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) and the New Plastics Economy initiative.

In 2016, nearly 70% of the UK’s plastic packaging waste that was collected for recycling was exported, mainly to the Far East, according to latest WRAP figures. With the new National Sword initiative coming into effect in China, this level of export is unsustainable. To ensure recycling targets are met, ‘design for recycling’ will play a vital role in developing a more robust domestic recycling infrastructure.

Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Circular Economy, said: “The spotlight is very much on plastics. Momentum is building as the issue of how we manage packaging waste is climbing up the agendas of every nation.

On the horizon, there’s going to be a push on producer responsibility that will require packaging to be collected and recycled. Brand owners taking action now on their packaging designs can future-proof them against forthcoming issues. This would help to gain a competitive edge in a more environmentally-focussed consumer environment.

Axion’s service is based on in-depth understanding and practical experience of the resource recovery sector, including the design, build and operation of its own plastics recycling facilities. Existing products or new packaging designs are reviewed to give an expert evaluation of the recyclability.

During the packaging design process, advice is given on material choices and product design aspects that affect the recyclability and value at end of life.

“Our analysis helps clients to understand how their packaging will be treated at end of life and how this is impacted by the design of the pack,” explained Richard. “By identifying the characteristics that reduce the material’s value at end of life, we can suggest alternative choices that can be more readily recycled.

“We do not use a pre-defined tool, so the approach to each situation is unique to ensure an optimised design can be achieved to reach the balance between function and recyclability.”

Increased recycling of plastic packaging waste in the UK would, he argued, reduce the risk of it getting into the world’s oceans. However, this requires the packaging to be ‘desirable for recyclers’. This where Axion can really add value to the packaging design process and plus the ‘knowledge gap’ that currently exists.

“To encourage investment in recycling plants, operators need to know that they will get sufficient yield and quality. So the producers putting packaging on the market that allows them to achieve those targets would help to stimulate the market,” added Richard.

 

RecoMed takeback scheme for medical devices wins 2017 CIWM recycling award

RecoMed, the expanding PVC takeback scheme for medical devices, has won the Chartered Institute of Waste Management’s (CIWM) Sustainability and Resource Award for Best Recycling Project 2017.

It’s the scheme’s fourth award since it was established in 2014. Having grown year-on-year, RecoMed now operates in 11 hospitals across the UK with more than 10 new ones currently in the process of implementing the scheme.

Run in partnership by Axion and the British Plastics Federation with funding from VinylPlus®, the voluntary sustainable development programme of the European PVC industry, RecoMed is the UK’s first PVC takeback scheme for single-use medical devices from hospitals.

RecoMed saves participating hospitals money on disposal costs by putting devices into recycling containers for collection rather than sending them for incineration or specialist landfill. Uncontaminated items collected in the scheme include oxygen and anaesthetic masks, oxygen tubing and IV bags.

So far, the scheme has recycled over 5,000kg of uncontaminated PVC (equivalent to over 150,000 masks), 2,800kg of which has been collected this year alone.

The collection of devices is all managed by RecoMed. Hospital staff contact the RecoMed team when they are ready for a collection and a logistics company is then organised to exchange the full pallet crates with empty crates. The material is transported to a specialised recycler where it is transformed into horticultural products such as tree ties.

Commenting on the award, Axion’s Jane Gardner says: “The scheme has gone from strength to strength, with 2017 seeing an exponential increase in the volume of PVC medical device waste collected. We hope this award will help to further showcase the scheme’s sustainability goals and we are excited about growing the number of hospitals where it is implemented.”

BPF Senior Industrial Issues Executive Matt Davies states: “RecoMed is flourishing and we are very proud that the scheme has won its fourth award. As it is implemented in more hospitals, even more valuable material can be recovered and put to good use in new applications.”

Brigitte Dero, VinylPlus General Manager adds: “Looking at the successful results of RecoMed, we, as VinylPlus, are proud to fund this scheme since 2014. The RecoMed scheme is a concrete example of how PVC waste – in this case PVC used in medical applications – can be recovered safely and used in new applications. VinylPlus will continue to invest in the recycling of medical devices in the future.”

Axion Polymers offers new improved recycled ABS grades

Axion Polymers has re-formulated its recycled ABS polymer product to give improved physical properties and a superior surface finish suitable for diverse applications from corner supports in window frames to furniture component parts.

In response to customer feedback, Axion has invested significantly in re-compounding its 100% recycled Axpoly® ABS52 raw material to deliver a higher impact strength and a shinier, deeper-black finish. The new Axpoly® ABS grade reference is ‘ABS52 1003’.

Recovered from the non-metallic waste fraction from end-of-life vehicles, the Axpoly® ABS resins deliver a carbon footprint saving of ~90% when compared with virgin ABS made from petrochemical feedstocks. That level of saving is equivalent to driving a forty-foot lorry 45,000 miles, based upon a single 20-tonne order of Axpoly ABS.

Continued process development, including a focus on purification and accurate quality analysis, is a key factor behind the polymer’s improved characteristics, according to Axion’s Product Development Technologist Mark Keenan.

He comments: “This has been confirmed by one of our customers who said it made a ‘massive difference’ in a visually-critical product. Another customer who sampled our new ABS grade told us ‘it works for us’ and wanted their 100-tonne order delivered as soon as possible.”

With its more consistent and better surface finish, the new ABS polymer is suitable for durable goods where higher strength and aesthetics are important customer requirements. Applications include office and home furniture products and assembly parts for the construction sector, as well as a wide range of components for electrical goods.

Welcoming on-going customer feedback that ‘keeps the challenge of our business moving forward and driving growth’, Axion Director Keith Freegard says further investment will be made in staff and product development over the coming months.

“Our next priority is to focus on getting higher impact strengths for even tougher applications,” adds Keith. “Having experienced record sales in October and November, we’re looking forward to carrying on our profitable growth trend. So watch this space from early 2018 when we expect to add more grades to our growing ABS range.”

Axion marks its 15th anniversary

Axion marked its 15th anniversary in October 2017 with a series of celebratory events for its 92-strong workforce across its three Manchester sites.

Since its formation in 2002, Axion has grown into a highly-respected resource recovery consulting and plastics recycling business, delivering major projects in high-interest areas of the Circular Economy from fuel cell to plastic packaging recycling.

Axion rebranded in the summer with the tagline ‘working towards a world where nothing goes to waste’ and launched a completely new website – www.axiongroup.co.uk.

Armed with commemorative mugs and cupcakes, founding directors Keith Freegard and Roger Morton gave talks on the company’s progress and presented awards to a number of long-serving employees at the Bramhall, Salford and Old Trafford facilities.

Keith highlighted how new sales opportunities for their recycled polymers were opening up due to uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process that is driving local ‘Made-in-GB’ sourcing behaviour. More big brands were also specifying ‘green’ recycled raw materials in an effort to improve their environmental credentials.

He added: “Increasingly, we are seeing a Circular Economy influence on product design and material supply chains as designers and manufacturers recognise the importance of protecting and making better use of our finite resources. Changing attitudes towards waste is having a positive impact both on what we do and can deliver for our clients. The future’s bright!”

Head of Consulting Services, Jane Gardner said: “Judging by the wide range of projects we are currently working on and the number of enquiries we are now receiving, this reflects an increasing desire from companies to develop their activities along Circular Economy principles. We have the expertise in both the collection and reprocessing of a wide variety of materials to help them achieve their goals.”

Head of Finance and HR Judith Clayman said Axion is committed to staff development and will be working towards Investors in People accreditation. She added: “We have a great well-motivated team here and our emphasis is very much about our talented people. We want to support staff development and make Axion an even more fun place to work.”

Axion Polymers: ‘Success – we’d do Interplas every year!’

We declared Axion Polymers’ attendance at Interplas 2017 a ‘great success’, having collected more than 100 leads, including two firm invitations to quote from potential plastic clients, over the show’s three days.

“Interplas is a key show for us, so having put a lot of planning effort into our stand, we were very pleased to be rewarded with a high level of knowledgeable and interested visitors,” said Axion Director Keith Freegard. “We were really busy and are now following up more than 100 leads.”

He said that a ‘high point’ from the show was at least two visitors, impressed with the company’s high-quality 100% recycled polymer range, had emailed them the next day inviting quotations against specified polymers.

“In the normal selling process, it would take three months to get to that stage. So for us, the show has proved its worth. I feel confident that we’ll gain between five and 10 new orders from the number of leads we got,” continued Keith, who also spoke at the show on why product designers should ‘think circular’ and use sustainable recycled plastics in new goods.

Axion Polymers produces three types of recycled polymer from its advanced re-processing plants for Automotive Shredder Residue (ASR) derived from End of Life Vehicles (ELV) and WEEE. These are Axpoly® PP (polypropylene), ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and HIPS (high impact polystyrene).

All three recycled polymers have a significantly lower carbon footprint than oil-based virgin plastics – up to 89% for ABS, 82.5% for recycled (HIPS) and 73% for recycled (PP), according to Axion’s 2017 Axpoly® Carbon Footprint Analysis.

Speaking after the show, Axion’s Product Development Technologist Mark Keenan said: “Not only was the show a great opportunity to look for new leads and potential to grow Axion Polymers, it also enabled us to meet with much of our existing customer base, which would normally not be possible due to time constraints and busy workloads.

“Many of our customers visited our stand to talk about not just how the existing business relationship together was going, but also how it could be developed to our mutual benefit.”

Laura Smith, Commercial Operations Manager at Axion’s Salford processing facility commented: “Having received a high level of enquiries over the three days, we are confident that we should gain some new customers as a result of attending Interplas.”

Keith concluded: “Based on our 2017 experience, I’d be happy if Interplas was held every year if we got a similar quality of visitors and amount of footfall. For us, the show fills the right gap in the market and it’s in the right location.”

Thinking ‘circular’ with recycled plastics in product design

Using sustainable materials for plastics product design can offer brands valuable differentiation in a competitive marketplace. Keith Freegard, Axion Polymers Director, offers advice on why designers should think ‘circular’ with recycled content in new goods.

It’s time to think afresh about sustainable product design and how recycled plastics can deliver interesting products that can help brands of all sizes and sectors engage more with their consumers.

Our planet is facing scarcer raw material resources as global businesses – be they electrical goods, automotive or construction, to name but a few – consume vast tonnages of materials in their manufacturing processes. These products deliver goods and services from which end-users enjoy a benefit.

We have reached a point where the traditional linear consumption model of ‘take, make and dispose’ no longer makes environmental sense. Industries are realising that this is not sustainable, alongside growing consumer concern about our ‘throwaway society’.

In the last few years, there’s been a huge wave of consumer reaction to plastics largely due to news headlines of beach and ocean litter. Clever brands are realising they need to vary their business model to deliver more sustainable environmentally-beneficial attributes that fit with their customers’ expectations of ‘doing their bit’ for the environment.

Coca-Cola’s recent announcement that it would move towards a 50% recycled PET content for its drinks bottles by 2020 has to be welcomed. But one key driver for the change is concern about brand damage due to high levels of recognition in the media. By tapping into growing consumers’ desires for sustainability, brand owners can further strengthen trust in their products and increase customer loyalty.

Forward-thinking brands are recognising that one key element of their overall ‘brand value’, which is a complex amalgam of all the attributes that customers love about the products, is visible evidence that ‘their brand’ is looking after the planet. Consumers are increasingly placing, or wanting to place, their trust and loyalty in brands that can demonstrate and deliver strong sustainable credentials in the way they do business.

Hence the commitment from Coca-Cola; but other major manufacturers, such as Peugeot, are following suit. On Eco-design in its Clean Technologies strategy, the PSA Group states that it is ‘committed to limiting the environmental impact of its vehicles from design to end of life. As such, the Group has committed to integrating 30% of recycled or bio-sourced materials in the production of its vehicles’.

Likewise, in the electrical sector we are seeing big brands starting to specify recycled content for some components in their equipment. I envisage this trend accelerating over the next few years.

Another key driver for sustainable materials use, I believe, will be the introduction of more stringent carbon-based fiscal measures; either as a ‘carbon tax’ or other indirect measures to encourage greater use of recycled content in new products.

Given the lower manufacturing costs and reduced carbon footprint of using recycled polymers versus oil-based virgin polymers, significant savings can accrue for manufacturers that, in turn, can be passed onto consumers. If goods produced with more recycled content and a lower ‘taxation’ on the material use linked to their carbon footprint cost less, that presents an attractive marketing opportunity to prospective purchasers.

Product designers working with higher ‘carbon impact’ materials, such as plastics, metals or glass, must consider the associated carbon footprint that comes with each material choice. Equally, they need to verify the origin, source and quality of the recycled material so they can be confident that the recycled supply is at least as good as the virgin material. Asking the right technical questions is crucial. Is your supplier employing certified quality standards (ISO 9001); how are materials tested and how do they control batches, material flows, cleanliness and traceability?

Almost all recycled polymers will offer some price benefit against virgin materials. But the price benefit can vary widely depending on the volatile market status for that individual polymer. Swings of up to 50% in short timeframes are not uncommon.

Specifying recycled material from a tightly-controlled feedstock ensures you can buy into a stable pricing model, such as Axion’s. Our three types of recycled polymer are derived from End of Life Vehicles (ELV) and WEEE. With full control of the feedstock from its origin as waste right through the process chain to a finished product, we can ensure consistency of quality, supply and pricing.

Furthermore, our 2017 Axpoly® Carbon Footprint Analysis revealed a carbon saving of up to 89% for recycled ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), 82.5% for recycled HIPS (high impact polystyrene) and 73% for recycled polypropylene (PP). That equates to driving a 40ft lorry 45,500 miles on the saving of one full-load of Axpoly® ABS as a virgin replacement choice.

Of the many technical, commercial and marketing reasons for designers to choose recycled content in place of virgin materials, perhaps the defining one is that many of your customers might like it. Whether this is for a vacuum cleaner, drink bottle or parts in a vehicle, you could increase their enjoyment in its use phase. What better way to generate customer loyalty – and reap the environmental benefits!

Axion Polymers is a double Plastic Industry Awards finalist

Axion Polymers has been shortlisted in two categories of the prestigious Plastic Industry Awards 2017 – for Best Recycled Product and Best Technology Application.

Axion was selected as a double Finalist for demonstrating that its recycling process delivers excellent polymer product quality to customers demanding ‘as good as virgin’ standards. Axion are short-listed as finalists in a joint award application with their customer for Axpoly® PP51 polymer, 1 Env Solutions Ltd who manufacture and distribute vermin control systems in Essex.

And secondly, for the innovation, investment and effort that has gone into developing a world-class, technologically-advanced continuous process for materials recycling from end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) at its Shredder Waste Advanced Processing Plant (SWAPP).

In delivering the 95% recycling and recovery rate for cars, the Trafford Park facility creates a circular economic model for automotive materials. Axion’s process has increased recycling of non-metallic materials and plastics that make up 20 – 30% by mass of ELVs. High-grade Axpoly® recycled polymers can be used as a direct replacement for virgin polymer, or combined with virgin polymers for use in demanding applications, including the automotive sector.

Delighted with our double finalist placing, Axion Director Keith Freegard attributes Axion Polymers’ success to three ‘Ps’: product, process and people. He explains: “We’re happy because the first ‘P’ relates to our quality-controlled product, which comes from a known origin, has a measured carbon impact, offers consistent regular properties and is delivered reliably. That’s why our product’s successful.

“Our process – the second ‘P’ is clearly something we’re proud of, having invested so much effort, time and money and innovation into creating a plant, which we think is unique. Having applied good chemical engineering process principles, we treat the incoming material as a mixture of resources that need to be separated in an innovative and inventive manner.”

Keith stresses that neither of those two ‘Ps’ could have been achieved without the third, ‘really important’ one – People. He adds: “Our products only deliver all those benefits and attributes because our people are committed, well-motivated, work as a team and really care about delivering exactly what the customer wants.”

Latest results from battery design project results to be unveiled at LCV17

Axion will be exhibiting alongside its consortium partners at Cenex-LCV17 – the UK’s premier low carbon vehicle event – when the latest results of a major research project into battery packs for the next generation of electric vehicles are expected to be unveiled.

Axion embarked on the AMPLiFII Project (Automated Module-to-pack Pilot Line for Industrial Innovation) in 2015. Led by WMG, at the University of Warwick, it aims to develop the next generation of traction batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles supported by £10 million of funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles in partnership with Innovate UK.

Axion is working on the end of life options for lithium ion batteries, designing the battery pack to allow easier end of life management and understanding the full lifecycle supply chain for batteries. Our studies include design and manufacture for end of first life, manufacturing and repurposing in second life applications and material recycling.

Sam Haig, Axion’s Head of Engineering & Research, commented: “We’re now 90% of the way through this innovative project and the work that we’ve done will lay the foundations for the development of battery technology in the UK, especially for lower-volume and niche producers.”

Welcoming the Government’s recent announcement of £246 million funding for the Faraday Challenge to boost UK expertise in battery technology, Sam added: “It really sets the groundwork for further research and development in this area. Future projects will be able to use our findings to develop and commercialise them further.”

Sharing WMG’s stand at Millbrook with other project members, Axion will be exhibiting alongside Augean who are advising on safe handling and dismantling of automotive batteries, effective treatment of end-of-life materials and ensuring compliance.

The project also brings together Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Alexander Dennis (ADL), Ariel Motor Company, Augean, Delta Motorsport, Potenza Technology, Trackwise, HORIBA MIRA, The University of Oxford and Axion.

Axion rebrands with new website to reflect wider CE services

Axion Consulting has rebranded as ‘Axion’ with a new website to reinforce its positioning as ‘Circular Economy specialists’.

Axpoly® high quality recycled polymers will still be supplied under the Axion Polymers branding, with its marketing and product documents getting a fresh new look.

Axion’s consultancy services are offered under the new ‘Axion’ name with the tagline ‘Working towards a world where nothing goes to waste’.

New logos for both Axion and Axion Polymers sport a dotted ‘o’, which reflects the circular economy, but is also inspired by the extruder head in polymer production.

Commenting on the rebranding, Axion’s Marketing Manager Caroline Howarth says: “Attitudes towards waste and how we protect finite resources are changing. We see our role as helping to develop and support circular economy initiatives that provide a viable alternative to the ‘take, make, dispose’ model and where resource recovery and re-use become the default options.”

The company’s manufacturing and consultancy operations are showcased on the new website – www.axiongroup.co.uk – where visitors can access full information on the comprehensive range of products, expertise and innovative services.

Easier to navigate with a contemporary new look, the website also contains the latest news, job vacancies and expanded information about the company. This includes sections on services such as technical R&D, engineering and process optimisation, business and investor support, business and consumer engagement, expert opinion and specialist collections.

Caroline adds: “We are rolling out the branding throughout our marketing materials such as service brochures, product information sheets, case studies, stationery and social media interfaces. We’re proud of our new up-to-date design and welcome feedback on what you think.”

 

Why designers should think ‘circular’ with recycled plastics

Enhanced brand values, lower manufacturing costs and consistency of quality and supply are among the key reasons why product designers should ‘think circular’ and use recycled plastics in new goods.

“But alongside the environmental benefits of using recycled content versus oil-based virgin polymers, designers should consider consumers’ growing concern at how we are using our planet’s limited resources and incorporate fresh thinking in their plans,” urges Keith Freegard, Axion Director.

Highlighting drinks giant Coca-Cola’s recent announcement that it would move towards a 50% recycled PET content for its bottles by 2020, Keith says: “In the last few years, there’s been a huge wave of consumer reaction to plastics largely due to news headlines of beach and ocean litter. Clever brands are realising they need to vary their business model to deliver more sustainable environmentally-beneficial attributes that fit with their customers’ expectations of ‘doing their bit’ for the environment.

“Coca-Cola’s move has to be welcomed, but one key driver for the change is concern about brand damage due to high levels of recognition in the media. By tapping into growing consumers’ desires for sustainability, brand owners can further strengthen trust in their products and increase customer loyalty.”

Keith will be speaking at the ‘Sustainability’ session on September 28th at Interplas 2017, where he will advise visitors on the importance of using sustainable materials for plastics product design, how designers can put ‘circular’ thinking into practice and what to consider when making material choices.

According to Axion’s latest research, recycled polymers have significantly lower carbon footprint than oil-based virgin plastics – up to 89% for Axpoly® ABS. Axion’s 2017 Axpoly® Carbon Footprint Analysis also reveals a carbon saving of 82.5% for Axpoly® recycled HIPS and 73% for Axpoly® recycled PP. That equates to driving a 40ft lorry 45,500 miles on the saving of one full-load of Axpoly® ABS as a virgin replacement choice.

Keith adds: “Many technical, commercial and marketing reasons exist for designers to specify recycled content in place of virgin materials; whether this is for a vacuum cleaner, drink bottle or parts in a vehicle. But ultimately, through communicating that a product contains recycled plastics, you could increase the enjoyment in the use phase for the customer. What better way of generating customer loyalty – and reaping the environmental benefits!”