News

Women should consider careers in recycling

Women are involved in every level of the materials recycling industry and this is certainly the case at Axion Polymers where they hold key roles in a number of areas from management and finance to process engineering and laboratory research.

“The recycling sector offers interesting and varied employment opportunities, and we would encourage women to consider it as a career choice. Personally speaking, it is motivating and rewarding to be working for a company that recovers and recycles valuable resources, and diverts that material from landfill,” says Caroline Howarth, Axion’s Marketing & Information Governance Manager.

“If you are interested in science, engineering, recycling and the environment, this is a great sector to be in. It is a high-tech, modern industry that offers so much opportunity,” continues Caroline. “Here at Axion, we are proud of our female employees who are innovative, proactive and committed to their work. So, to mark International Women’s Day on March 8th and hopefully inspire others, we are sharing some of their stories.”

Joining Axion Polymers in 2006 from university, Laura Smith has worked in various roles, including conducting trials, R&D, logistics and commercial sales. As Commercial Operations Manager, she oversees the sales and business development functions for the Salford and Trafford Park processing facilities.

At these sites, plastics recovered from end-of-life vehicles (auto shredder waste) and waste electrical goods are refined into high-quality recycled engineering polymers that match virgin material quality for use in a wide range of new products.

Laura was seeking a career path ‘in an industry which had longevity’, explaining: “Although at the time, recycling in the UK was not that advanced, it was apparent the industry was moving forward and improving. I felt I wanted to be part of that growth and that the recycling sector offered an interesting career choice.

“Each day brings different challenges, so I’m constantly learning. However, it is particularly satisfying to see the business growing and we are processing more material each year. It is rewarding too, as we are diverting material from landfill and working towards a world where nothing goes to waste!”

Judith Clayman joined in 2003 as Axion’s first employee responsible for the project management of a novel recycling project dealing with brominated flame retardants in plastics. She progressed from part-time project accountant to full time Head of Finance & HR to General Manager.

Although an accountant by profession, Judith says the job “appealed” as the company vision was very clear that “we wanted to work towards a world where nothing goes to waste, even if the slogan hadn’t been adopted at that point!”

The most rewarding aspects of her work, she says, are seeing the ‘real passion’ in the teams from production to the business support teams and advancement in resource recovery processes, adding: “Witnessing the ‘infeed’ which looks like the material inside a vacuum cleaner being turned into ‘products’ that can be used in various industries from aggregate in construction to plastics in drainage gives a real sense of achievement.”

Also holding senior positions are Axion’s Head of HR Jane Bennett and Charlotte Addison, Finance Manager. Jane, whose keen interest in the environment, recycling and sustainability attracted her to the sector, enjoys her ‘varied and interesting’ role.

She adds: “With more women entering the recycling/resource recovery sector, perceptions are changing and there are opportunities to progress. I am proud that the majority of the senior management team at Axion are women.”

‘Passionate about the environment and relevance to my degree’ were key reasons for Abigail Moynihan, who works in the Trafford Park laboratory, joining Axion in 2019. She says Axion’s ‘friendly and co-operative team’ makes her job all the more enjoyable.

Having completed two consecutive years working as a summer placement student at Axion, Uchenna Onwuamaegbu joined as a Process Engineer at the Salford site in 2011 after graduating from the University of Manchester. Keen to gain some engineering experience, her career choice ‘wasn’t planned’.

“Axion was recommended to me at university. After six months working for Axion, I became more interested in resource recovery and wanted to explore further how value can be extracted from scrap and the technical and process requirements to safely achieve these goals, and profitably.”

What Uchenna enjoys most about her job is working as a team to overcome daily challenges, be they problem solving, investment decisions or simply prioritising tasks, to ensure continuous process maintenance and improvement.

 

Employee of the month – Charles Parkinson

This month, Charles Parkinson, Lead Process Engineer at Axion’s Trafford Park site, was awarded ‘Employee of the Month’.

This is in recognition of the work he did to migrate the process data at Trafford Park to new software, reconfiguring the data and getting the system working.   This involved a large amount of work and and effort to complete in the time available. Congratulations Charles!

Christmas closure

Meery Christmas from all at Axion
Our Trafford Park and Salford sites will both close for business on Thursday 24th December 2020 at 16:00
We will re-open for business on Monday 4th January 2021 at 08:00.
We would like to wish all our friends, customers and colleagues a very happy Christmas, and our best wishes to everyone for a better new year.

Employee of the month – Ethan Gordon

employee-of-the-month-ethan-gordon

Our employee of the month is Ethan Gordon. We had a lack of resources recently in the lab and Ethan worked very hard to keep all activities in the lab going. A particular example was staying extra hours on a Sunday to ensure he finished testing the material so the order could be dispatched the following day to meet the customer delivery date on time. Thank you for your hard work.

PVC recycling through Recovinyl reaches a new high in UK and Ireland

Recovinyl PVC recycling

The UK and Ireland collected and recycled a total of 143,428 tonnes of waste PVC across all PVC recycling formats in 2019. Within this total, PVC window profiles accounted for 86,057 tonnes, according to latest industry figures.

Second only to Germany, the UK’s achievement represents 18.6% of the 771,313 tonnes of waste PVC recycled throughout Europe in 2019 – a new record high and 4.3% up on the previous year. Window profiles and related building products account for 47% of the total PVC recycled across Europe.

Recovinyl®, the PVC industry’s recycling scheme, was the largest contributor to this total and registered a total of 769,233 tonnes of PVC waste entirely recycled in Europe in 2019. In 2019, 13 new recyclers joined the Recovinyl network.

Demand for recycled rigid PVC remained very high. At the same time, more PVC waste was available from cables – particularly in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland and the UK – due to reduced exports to China.

Industry concern continues over changes to the Basel Convention, an international treaty governing shipments of hazardous waste, that has deemed PVC to be a ‘notifiable’ waste.  This would create more paperwork and cost for UK-based suppliers, making the import and export of waste PVC between the UK to the EU more difficult.

Changes to the Convention, which will come into effect from 1 January 2021, will see non-hazardous plastic waste that is not recyclable or is ‘difficult’ to recycle categorised as waste requiring ‘special consideration’ and listed in the Convention’s Annex II. Some single polymer plastic wastes, such as PET and PP, are exempt, whereas PVC is not.

Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Consulting at Axion, Recovinyl’s Regional Representative for the UK argues that this is not justified for PVC as it is a highly recyclable material, as demonstrated by the success of the Recovinyl scheme throughout Europe and other projects like RecoMed, the medical PVC recycling scheme.

He says: “Under the Convention rules, PET is ‘green-listed’, even though in reality PVC is much more widely recycled than PET and the recyclate used widely in durable and long-life products, for example in the building and construction sectors.”

While the UK has a well-established PVC recycling infrastructure, especially for window profiles, Richard explains that much cable waste from Europe is imported for use in traffic management products and that this supply chain is needed to maintain production. Current uncertainty could mean UK manufacturers losing out on useful raw materials.

He adds: “Recovinyl continues to grow and satisfy the huge demand for recycled PVC in the UK and across Europe. Recycling is the best environmental solution for PVC as it can be readily recycled. It’s right that we continue to use this valuable raw material resource in new products and set an example for the treatment of other waste construction materials.”

Simon Scholes, Managing Director of VEKA Recycling comments that while the legislation will mean more paperwork, it also forces the industry to be ‘more professional’ and offer a reliable and sustainable service to companies handling waste PVC.

He continues: “The industry in general has stepped up and made PVC recycling happen. What we’re doing is still right and significant investment has gone into recycling this material to a quality ready to be re-used in new long-life products. This is something to be encouraged, not discouraged.”

Simon adds: “As an industry, of course we will overcome these future hurdles. We’ve invested too much time, money and passion not to make it succeed.”

Cumulatively, 5.7 million tonnes of PVC have been recycled within the Vinyl 2010 and VinylPlus frameworks across Europe since 2000, preventing the release of 11.4 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Do not blame plastic, as alternatives not always better

Do not blame plastics, recycled plastics can be a good alternative

Plastic continues to get labelled as a ‘bad’ material in the press, yet the material has been developed for good reason and it excels at the job it has been designed to do in so many different applications. Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Consulting, argues the case for this versatile modern material that delivers many benefits in our 21st century lives and why the alternatives are not necessarily better.

In recent years, plastics have been singled out as the ‘pariah’ of manufacturing materials and to be avoided due to a variety of ‘sins’, from polluting our oceans to streets closer to home. Although there is clearly a global issue with plastic waste, it is often the management of the material and people’s behaviour that are causing the negative impact, not the material itself.

Adverse reactions to the use of plastic have led to brands and manufacturers switching to alternative materials, such as cardboard. As a result, there has been a rise in the use of cardboard as a ‘sustainable’ alternative to plastic, particularly for packaging. People believe its carbon footprint is low, but that is not necessarily the case.

Cardboard is not necessarily as sustainable as people might believe. While a recycling route exists for paper-based packaging, such as cardboard, it is important to recognise that paper and cardboard can only be recycled up to four to six times. This is because the wood fibres get shorter and are consequently weakened in each recycling process, eventually resulting in their use in ‘lower value’ packaging products, such as egg boxes and tissues.

Cardboard needs some preparation in the sorting and recycling process. This requires a great deal of water in the pulping stage, followed by energy-intensive rolling and drying processes to create new cardboard products.

Plastics can be recycled multiple times

Whereas some plastics, depending on their polymer type, are capable of being recycled multiple times. PVC is a great example here; as a rigid and durable polymer used in long-life construction products like window profiles, and it can be recycled up to seven times without any loss of performance. Recycled PVC can be reused in many diverse new products, such as windows, facias, flooring and electrical components.

Polyethylene and PET, commonly used in packaging products such as plastic bottles, are both examples of frequently recycled materials that can be reused to make new bottles and other packaging products.

Compared to cardboard, flexible plastics use a small amount of resource to do a similar job in packaging applications. Alternatives to plastic, such as aluminium or glass, are not always the more sustainable option. While aluminium cans, for example, have a good recycling rate, the carbon impact for both virgin and recycled aluminium can be significantly higher than for plastics. Although Life Cycle Analysis should be treated with caution, it shows that there is no clear-cut answer and simply switching from one format to another is not a solution to the issues of resource efficiency.

75% reduction in carbon emissions

Last year, a UK-based water bottle company announced that it was moving production of its bottles to 100% recycled PET, citing that it has the ‘lowest carbon footprint’ when compared with alternatives. The company claims that by switching over to 100% recycled PET plastic bottles from virgin plastic, it will reduce its carbon emissions by 75% when compared with using aluminium or cardboard.

As the company asserts, quite rightly, using recycled content is the best environmental option as using recycled PET bottles to make new ones is utilising a resource that is ‘already here’. Being a single polymer type ensures it can be readily recycled.

Crucially, this approach illustrates the importance of taking a ‘holistic’ approach to manufacturing; consider the material you are using, how it is being used in its lifetime and what happens when it is discarded. Optimisation of the process is key: use a raw material with a low carbon impact, which then gives the best performance during its lifetime and is capable of a low impact end of first life option.

In the current challenging times, attention has turned to Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) and there is a level of concern about disposable ‘plastic’ face masks. Made from a mix of polypropylene (PP) with metal clips and elasticated bands, these masks cannot be recycled easily or cost-effectively. As they could be potentially infectious, they would need to be quarantined for 72 hours, so recycling may not be the best solution.

There are so-called ‘plastic-free’ alternatives, such as face shields, which are made from a bioplastic rather than a petrochemical-based plastic. However, these require specialised facilities if they are to biodegrade in a controlled way and not release harmful gasses, such as CO2 and methane, into the environment. The likelihood of these materials being taken to a suitable processing site is extremely low.

Protective face visors made from a fossil fuel plastic, such as PET, serve an important function. In theory, they could be recycled, but in practice it is highly unlikely. It is a case of weighing up the benefits the products bring in their lifetimes, the impact of the raw material used in manufacturing and how the product is disposed of.

Be responsible with plastics disposal

Ultimately, at the end of a useful lifetime serving a worthwhile purpose, all plastics should be disposed of in a controlled and responsible way. Concern over the littering of disposable face masks has put plastics in a ‘bad light’. That is not the material’s fault per se; it is people’s behaviour and through a responsible approach to disposing of plastic we can continue using a useful, versatile and life-saving material that has brought so many benefits in modern times. All in all, there is nothing wrong with using plastic responsibly.

Axion Polymers renews ISO 9001 certification and gains new H & S standard

Axion Polymers has successfully renewed its current ISO management system certification and gained the new enhanced ISO45001 Health and Safety standard at its two Manchester materials recycling sites.

Following an extensive audit process in 2020, Axion Polymers has been recertified for the ISO 9001 quality management systems at its Salford and Trafford Park operations. ISO9001 certification is based on seven quality principles, covering all aspects of the plants’ operations, from manufacture to supply and customer service.

Both sites have also successfully transitioned from OHSAS 18001, the Health and Safety management systems standard, to the latest ISO45001 certification ahead of the September 2021 deadline, that demonstrates a strict compliance with Health and Safety procedures.

Axion’s General Manager Judith Clayman comments: “This is a fantastic achievement and we are all delighted with successfully renewing our Lloyds Register ISO 9001 quality standards accreditation, confirming our commitment and adherence to our existing stringent quality management procedures.

“This assures our customers that all Axpoly® and Axplas® products are manufactured according to the highest quality and safety standards. We aim to make it evident from first setting foot on our sites that the health and safety of our employees, subcontractors and visitors is of the utmost priority. That is why I am so pleased that the whole team’s effort has been rewarded with the renewal of existing certification and achievement of the latest enhanced accreditation.”

 

Covid-19 Risk Assessment

During the current Coronavirus pandemic, we are continuing to operate our sites as safely as possible, following all current UK Government guidelines. You can read our detailed risk assessment here.

We have updated our Contractor/Visitor HSE site inductions to include additional information about Covid-19.

All contractors and visitors
Contractors and visitors to our sites, please read the Visitor Statement here and the Covid-19 Information Slide here. Once you have read both documents, please email your Axion contact to confirm that you have understood the requirements.

New contractors/visitors
In addition, New contractors and visitors to our SALFORD site, please watch our HSE Induction Presentation here:

Now please complete the Contractor Test of Understanding Form (Salford) here and return this to your Axion contact to confirm that you have watched the HSE Induction for our Salford site and understood the requirements.

New contractors and visitors to our TRAFFORD PARK site, please watch our HSE Induction Presentation here:

Now please complete the Contractor Test of Understanding Form here and return this to your Axion contact to confirm that you have watched the HSE Induction for our Trafford Park site and understood the requirements.

Coronavirus update

In the current very challenging circumstances, we would like to share our best wishes with you and hope that you, your family and friends are safe and well.

As the Coronavirus lockdown continues and events unfold, we are regularly reviewing our operations. The health and safety of our colleagues, customers and suppliers remains our highest priority and we have reduced the numbers of people on site to ensure that social distancing can be achieved. We have a skeleton staff on our sites; some of our colleagues are now working remotely and some colleagues have been temporarily furloughed. Those that have been furloughed are being supported by the Government Coronavirus Retention Scheme.

We have organised our business to allow it to flex according to changes in requirements as they arise, while maintaining all the additional safety measures that we have put into place. We are continuously monitoring the UK Government, DEFRA and British Plastics Federation guidance and will adjust our operations as required.

We have staff available to respond to calls and emails. If you have sales enquiries, please call 0161 925 8768 or 07711 928115, or email sales@axionpolymers.com For other enquiries, including site operations, logistics, purchasing and accounts payable, please call 0161 737 6124 or 0161 426 7731, or email info@axiongroup.co.uk

Our Salford and Trafford Park sites are open Monday – Thursday 07:00 – 15:30  and Friday 07:00 – 15:00

Coronavirus statement

The health and safety of our staff and everyone that attends our sites is at the centre of everything we do.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, we want to take this opportunity to reassure you that we have implemented measures to safeguard business continuity and to address any concerns that you may have.

Due to effective planning, we are well placed to continue supporting our customers with the  implementation of pragmatic measures, while also safeguarding the wellness of our employees and visitors to site.

We will continue to monitor official guidance and ensure robust controls are in place to be able to maintain continuity of our operations.

A working group of senior team members are meeting on a regular basis to ensure our operations are fully aligned to official COVID-19 guidelines and we can respond to changes as necessary.

Information on how to minimise and prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been communicated to all employees at all our sites, and strict hygiene regimes are in place.

This is a worldwide, unprecedented and challenging time for so many people and at Axion we will continue to implement the robust measures required to continue to safely operate our business.