Switch to recycled polymers to achieve sustainability targets

Axion Polymers recycled Axpoly plastic granules

Axion Polymers is calling on businesses across all industries to embrace recycled polymers as a vital tool in achieving their sustainability goals.

Ahead of Interplas 2023, the UK’s leading plastics exhibition and conference later this month, Axion says businesses who are looking at ways to operate more sustainably can make a significant impact by using recycled raw materials to make new goods.

Manufacturers looking to move towards net zero and meet industry regulations could benefit hugely by using recycled polymers and increasingly, it says, companies will be required to use recycled content in new goods by regulations and industry commitments demanding circularity for raw materials. For example, the EU recently proposed a regulation which would improve the circularity of materials in vehicle manufacture, by mandating that 25% of the plastic used to build a new vehicle is recycled plastic, of which 25% must be recycled from end-of-life vehicles.

Axion says its technical team can advise businesses looking to make the switch to recycled polymer and provide practical support where required. Axpoly recycled polymer grades are manufactured in the UK to ISO9001 quality standards and are REACH and RoHS compliant. Its engineering polymers match virgin material in quality and are suitable for use in a range of injection moulding applications, from vehicle components to consumer electronics to construction products.

Investment in its laboratory facilities means that Axion Polymers can carry out in-house accurate and rigorous material testing of its recycled polymer infeed and finished products. Customers can be confident that Axpoly recycled polymer grades comply with permitted levels of substances of very high concern (SVHCs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Laura Smith, commercial manager – polymers and co-products, Axion Polymers, said:

“Plastic recycling is an essential industry in the middle of a sustainable evolution. Consumer trends together with government policies and targets provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to substitute virgin polymers with environmentally preferred alternatives. At S. Norton Group, we’re proud our processes showcase how plastic waste can be harnessed to create valuable new products thereby conserving precious resources, reducing dependence on landfill and protecting the environment from greenhouse gas emissions.”

Axion Polymers has a secure infeed material supply from its parent company S. Norton Group, operating a unique process technology which converts non-metallic waste from end-of-life vehicles and waste electronic goods into recycled plastics, aggregates for construction, and alternative fuels supplying to energy from waste plants. It operates two processing plants in the Manchester area, with primary sorting taking place at Trafford Park and polymer refining and extrusion at Salford.

Tony Hayer, S. Norton managing director, added: “At a time of great change in the plastics industry, when businesses are facing mounting pressure to adopt circular practices and reduce their environmental footprint, using recycled polymers has plenty of benefits, including reduced demand for oil-based virgin polymer and significant carbon savings.”

Using Axpoly PP gives an 81% carbon saving and using Axpoly ABS gives a 90% carbon saving, compared with using virgin polymer.

Interplas takes place on September 26-28, 2023 at NEC, Birmingham, featuring over 500 exhibitors and enabling over 12,000 attendees from across the industry to discover the latest innovations in plastics manufacturing processes, technologies, materials and services. Axion Polymers will be located in Hall 4 on stand A8 and the team will be on hand to discuss how injection-moulders and manufacturers can use high quality recycled polymers, or bespoke blends with virgin material, in a wide range of product applications.

S. Norton Group makes huge £20m investment in first-of-its-kind shredder facility to drive future growth and boost productivity

New 3000 hp Lindemann shredder at S. Norton, Trafford Park, Manchester.

S. Norton Group has announced a significant £20m investment that is set to drive growth, bolster the firm’s sustainability credentials, and increase shredding capacity by more than 50%.
Leaders in innovative recycling and a global exporter, S. Norton Group has made the ambitious investment to design, build and commission a new world class metals shredder facility at its Manchester site. This major upgrade increases the Group’s capacity to shred waste metals with a much greater throughput, producing higher quality ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals and significantly increasing its capacity for processing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
Managed by S. Norton’s in-house engineering team, the new installation demonstrates the company’s commitment to innovation. Utilising the latest technology, the new 3000 hp Lindemann shredder is one of the most efficient in the world and the first-of-its-kind in the world with its sophisticated drive system. It also includes a bespoke and fully automated fire detection and suppression system, ensuring world class safety standards.
In addition to increased productivity, the new installation with its Venti Oelde downstream system has been purposefully designed to ensure environmental benefits such as improved dust abatement, reduced emissions to atmosphere and lower energy consumption.
Tony Hayer, Managing Director, said:
“We are committed to continually improving and investing in our operations to ensure that we remain at the forefront of recycling. Our engineering team has done an excellent job of designing and managing this major capital expenditure project, maintaining focus on optimising efficiency and improving the process. We are working to ensure that the company is in a position to grow, offering responsible recycling solutions for all forms of scrap metal and WEEE.”
David Hobson, Engineering Lead, said:
“The new shredder plant at Manchester is a world class installation that utilises the very latest and innovative technology options. The design sets the business up for the future and wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved within the business and the collaborative effort with our suppliers.”
Oonagh Kavanagh, Group Commercial Manager, said:
“This latest investment in advanced processing technology demonstrates S. Norton’s expertise and innovation in providing sustainable solutions in a complex and challenging market. The company remains focused on providing the highest level of service to which our customers are accustomed and we look forward to this new chapter in our history as we deliver ambitious investments in recycling technology to support the drive to a resource efficient economy.”
This latest investment again demonstrates the company’s commitment to realising its vision of living in a world where nothing goes to waste, by providing technology for the processing of a range of materials including waste electrical goods (WEEE) and end of life vehicles.

Restructure and new MD steer global recycling firm into exciting period of growth

Tony Hayer, Managing Director at S. Norton Group 2023

Leaders in innovative recycling and global exporter, S. Norton Group has revealed its vision for growth following a restructure of the Group and the appointment of new managing director, Tony Hayer.

Founded in 1962, the company has long established metals recycling operations across the UK in Liverpool, Manchester, London and Southampton.
Compared with using raw materials to manufacture metals and plastics, recycling saves energy and helps protect the environment. S. Norton Group supports a circular economy nationally and internationally by collecting, processing and distributing approx. 1.5m tonnes of recycled metals each year. The company recycles 95% of all materials it processes, with a target of sending zero waste to landfill; an objective it constantly strives towards. This is all part of the company’s vision to work together towards a world where nothing goes to waste.
Among the many actions implemented to take the successful business into the future is a restructuring to fully integrate the work of subsidiary, Axion Polymers, which was acquired in 2018. This has enabled the company to provide integrated end to end solutions for its customers for both metals and plastics.
Heading up this new era at S. Norton Group, Tony Hayer brings a wealth of experience, drawing on 20 years’ of working on large scale projects and business management. Together with the board, a restructured management team and the recent appointment of a new non-executive director, he has implemented new structures and systems to enable the company to focus on growth, increase its market share and support the delivery of sustainability goals for metal and plastic production.
Setting out his vision, Tony Hayer, Managing Director, S. Norton Group, said:
“Now in its 60th anniversary year, S. Norton Group is a hugely respected company in the industry. We are positioning the company for the future, building on its position as leaders in metals recycling innovation. We are committed to delivering a circular economy for waste metals, ensuring valuable raw materials are responsibly recycled and diverted from landfill. That commitment is at the heart of our vision for the company, as we continue to improve our processes and push toward measurable outcomes that demonstrate sustainability, ethical business practices and social responsibility from grass roots up.
“Having been at the company since 2019, we have delved deep into the values that have made this family business an outstanding employer for the past six decades. Our company values demonstrate our way of working and provide a framework for all our activities. We are actively encouraging all of our employees to work to these values and behaviours. We pledge to take S. Norton Group to the next level, while still keeping our people and our culture – which is the driving force of the business – at the forefront of our operations.”
Graham Donohue, Finance Director, S Norton Group, added:
“Tony understands the S. Norton Group, the sector and the importance of growing the company from within while managing workflow and investment. I look forward to working with him as we drive the company into a really exciting period of growth.”
At the heart of this innovation agenda, the company has undertaken a number of projects to implement or improve recycling processes with the likes of Warwick Manufacturing Group, where it was part of a consortium to establish a new automotive battery pack manufacturing research centre, and Jaguar Land Rover, to carry out an R&D project to refine the process of turning aluminium derived from end-of-life vehicles, into new raw materials for use in the automotive sector.
A family-run business, S. Norton employs people across the UK, almost half of which are employed in the Liverpool City Region, and it promotes working with local suppliers in the communities it operates. As a responsible recycler it has achieved and upheld ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 45001 for its quality, environmental and health and safety management systems.

Axion Polymers achieves CMS accreditation for Salford site

Axion Polymers has achieved Competence Management System (CMS) accreditation, which offers a range of benefits for its advanced recycled polymer re-processing plant at Salford.

Axion’s Salford site refines recovered plastics from its Trafford Park facility to produce its range of locally sourced and high-quality Axpoly® recycled PP and ABS polymers grades. These Axpoly® PP (polypropylene) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) engineering grades meet ISO 9001 quality standards.

UK-generated end-of-life vehicles (ELV) and WEEE are processed by Axion’s parent company S Norton & Co, separating waste plastics for processing by Axion’s own plants and providing a secure infeed material supply.

Axion Polymers was accredited by LRQA, and its CMS is valid for three years. Having this management system-based Standard in place demonstrates technically competent management of the site and enables the company to meet the requirements for the Environment Agency’s permit for its site.

Designed to ensure operational quality and efficiency, the CMS builds awareness of the EA permit requirements and the importance of compliance across the staff. As the entire Salford team is trained under the CMS, it removes the reliance on one individual for meeting the permit’s requirements.

Having the whole team trained in competency can reduce the risk of environmental incidents as employees can deal with environmental issues or emergency situations as they arise. Response times are reduced, and business continuity can be maintained.

The CMS is applied systematically and is auditable through regular surveillance audits to ensure it remains effective. An added benefit is that it helps to identify training needs for competence in permitted operations. As the CMS can form part of the ISO14001 internationally accepted standard for environmental management, Axion Polymers will be working towards that certification now.

Laura Smith, Commercial Operations Manager says: “The implementation of the CMS has required comprehensive training of all site staff to ensure that they completely understand our permit and our environmental responsibilities. We are already seeing the benefits, despite its recent implementation, as all staff have an awareness, and they are contributing towards ensuring the site is compliant.”

LRQA CMS Certificate

Plastic recycling does work

Recycling end-of-life plastic is still the best route for recovering this versatile and long-life material. Processing the material is the best way to preserve valuable resources and reduce negative environmental impact.

“Plastic recycling does work. Littering plastics has a negative effect on the environment so collecting household plastics for recycling helps to ensure they are disposed of responsibly,” says Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Consulting. “The recycled plastics can be given a second life in new, useful products; the idea that recycling doesn’t work is misleading.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told an audience of children at No. 10 in October that recycling “doesn’t work” and it would be a “mistake” to think society can “recycle its way out of the problem.”

However, Richard asserts that polls consistently show many people are trying to do their bit to protect the climate with households already sorting 45% of the waste for recycling. “Polyethylene (PET) bottles are highly recyclable if people dispose of them in their household recycling.”

Recycling plastics is an important part of tackling climate change and there are significant carbon savings to be made by using recycled plastics, he says. “There are far greater energy costs involved in manufacturing virgin plastic. Studies have shown it takes around 75% less energy to produce a plastic bottle made from recycled content compared to new plastic.”

In the UK, there are some great examples of plastics recycling which contribute towards the circular economy by diverting material from incineration. In Axion’s case, their two plants process plastics from end-of-life vehicles and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to produce their range of locally sourced Axpoly® recycled PP and ABS polymers.

Axion’s own research has shown recycled polymers have significantly lower carbon footprint than oil-based virgin plastics – up to 89% for ABS. Their 2017 Axpoly® Carbon Footprint Analysis also revealed a carbon saving of 82.5% for recycled (HIPS) and 73% for recycled (PP).

By the end of 2021, Axion’s Trafford Park facility expects to have saved up to 130,000 tonnes of shredder residue (from scrap vehicles and waste electronics) from going to landfill, having recovered around 20,000 tonnes of plastic from that volume.

Axion’s second facility at Salford further refines this recovered plastic fraction into high quality polymers with ‘good as virgin’ performance for use in a variety of product applications including automotive, construction and water treatment products.

Richard continues: “Demand for high quality recycled polymers increases year on year as manufacturers recognise the need for environmentally friendly recyclate that can replace virgin materials in new goods.”

In the on-going fight against climate change, legislation, such as extended producer responsibility (EPR) will force the producers of materials to absorb the cost of recovery and recycling. As a result, many products today that are challenging to recycle economically will be capable of conversion into secondary raw materials for producing new items.

Richard believes that making sure the packaging we need is recyclable makes a big difference, helping to limit carbon emissions, reduce pollution and create jobs.

He adds: “The tax on packaging with less than 30% recycled content will also drive the end markets for recycling. The technology to recycle the majority of plastic waste exists, but greater investment in the UK plastics recycling infrastructure and systems is required.

“There is a lot of positive change coming which will help plastics recycling, and we should put more effort into it to make it work.”

Demand for quality recycled polymer at record levels

Demand for quality recycled polymers is at record levels due to increased demand from a wide variety of industry and manufacturing sectors.

Speaking after exhibiting at the 2021 Interplas Show, Mark Keenan, Business Development Manager comments: “There is a real shortage in the market for quality recycled material that we are seeing day in day out. We get asked for supply more than ever before.

“There was significant interest from visitors considering switching to recycled material and people were particularly interested in our secure infeed supply given the current material supply shortages.”

Axion Polymers showcased its range of locally sourced and produced Axpoly® recycled PP and ABS polymers grades at the show, which Mark says was ‘a great success, a very positive experience for us as a business and for the industry as a whole’.

With the automotive and electronic industries, in particular, making commitments to future use of recycled material, Axion Polymers believes this will only increase demand for sustainable solutions for all types of manufacturers.

Amid reported shortages of virgin material supply, Axion Polymers’ established and fully tested grades from its advanced re-processing plants offer a reliable, UK-sourced alternative 100% recycled content as good as virgin in performance.

Axion produces its range of high-quality Axpoly® PP (polypropylene) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) engineering grades to ISO 9001 quality standards. UK-generated end-of-life vehicles (ELV) and WEEE are processed by Axion’s parent company S Norton & Co, separating waste plastics for processing by Axion’s own plants and providing a secure infeed material supply.

“It has been three years since the last Interplas Show and we were delighted to be back,” continues Mark. “While the show is a great place to attract new business and network with all parts of the industry, for me it was just as important to meet existing customers to make sure they are happy with our service.”

At its in-house laboratory and testing facilities, Axion’s expert team works with customers to formulate specific grades to match their polymer physical properties requirements. Trials can also be conducted in house, and at customers’ own factories to ensure the recycled polymer is suitable for customers’ particular applications.

Balancing the needs of the circular economy and a toxic-free world

Growing pressure to transition to the circular economy and the desire to eliminate legacy additives is proving to be a conundrum for the plastics recycling sector. Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Consulting, explores the issues and impacts on the industry.

Plastic products have been an integral part of our modern lives for some decades now, providing excellent functionality in myriad applications and sectors.

Recycling is an important part of the circular economy and to keep materials flowing, there will always be a need to recover and recycle plastics, wherever possible.

But when it comes to recycling these materials, plastics containing legacy additives – Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) – cannot be recycled due to restrictions aimed at eliminating risk to health and the environment.

There is an enormous amount of ‘legacy’ plastic in long life goods, such as electronics, construction and automotive products. For example, almost half of all plastics from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) cannot be recycled because their POPs content exceeds permitted levels. Inevitably, these ‘contaminated’ materials have to be incinerated.

These plastics can contain additives we now know are harmful to the environment or to human health, and therefore have since been restricted for use in new products under REACH regulations.

Consequently, the industry is facing a huge problem of how to recycle legacy products, some of which are in theory recyclable, but contain hazardous additives that are now restricted. This is making recycling more difficult, whereas in a circular economy, the process should be made easier. Achieving a circular economy for WEEE plastics is looking more distant because of more stringent POPs limits and the desire to be ‘toxic-free’.

Even the potential presence of legacy additives is enough to prevent recycling, and with costly laboratory analysis required to prove the absence of banned additives often recyclers will not process these ‘legacy’ plastics.

Now the burden of these legacy additives, and responsibility for them, is on waste managers and recyclers rather than the manufacturers who profited from them in the first place. Producers want to demonstrate ‘producer responsibility’ by ensuring their goods can be recycled, yet when it comes to items like waste electronics it is becoming more and more difficult.

Legally, POPS waste must be destroyed. As this waste is often mixed with non-POPs plastics, which cannot be separated, then the mixture needs to be destroyed and raw material resources are lost.

So, where does this leave us? Although technology is continually improving to be able to separate POPs, such as X-ray sorting to identify bromine, this comes at a high cost compared to conventional methods.

Then there is the constant threat of more additives becoming restricted and moving to the banned POPs list. Amidst all these regulations, there are still recycling targets to meet, and it seems the recyclers are left to deal with it all.

Stopping harmful additives at source in manufacturing is absolutely vital, but if they have historically been used, they will remain in the waste for many years. The ability of the waste industry to adapt must be considered when restricting more additives.
Ultimately, what is needed is a collaborative approach with manufacturers, recyclers and regulators all working together towards maximising what we can recycle and removing hazardous substances. Recyclers need continued cross supply chain support.

If regulations become too burdensome to recycle responsibly, the danger is that waste could be forced down illegal and unregulated routes leading to a worse environmental outcome in the future.

Employee of the month – Hugo Pereira and Keelan Sharples

Employee of the month awards for July have been presented to Hugo Pereira and Keelan Sharples.

Hugo Pereira is based at our Salford site and works as a Production Operator, Second in Command for his shift. He was nominated for Employee of the Month by his shift leader Riki Lock who commented: “I have been really impressed with Hugo’s hard work, dedication and willingness to learn any job you ask him to do.”

Keelan Sharples is a Production Operator at our Trafford Park site and was nominated for Employee of the Month by his shift leader Dave Jeffrey. Keelan was nominated for going above and beyond, covering plants when staff shortages occurred, always being on time and and always being willing to help others. Keelan even came to work on his day off in order to complete training!

Well done to both Hugo and Keelan on their well deserved awards.

Axion & PlastiCircle develop new uses for non-bottle PET waste

Axion & PlastiCircle develop new uses for non-bottle PET waste

Recycled polymers from waste plastic packaging can be used in non-packaging applications, reports Axion, one of 20 organisations involved in PlastiCircle, a pioneering pan-European research project.

The €8.6 million EU Horizon 2020-funded project has been working for the past four years to optimise the collection, transport, sorting and recycling of kerbside collected plastic packaging with the aim of transforming this waste into sustainable new products. The project ends in May 2021.

Axion is managing work with five manufacturers on how recycled content from plastic packaging can be incorporated into different non-packaging applications, including the construction and automotive sectors.

Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Consulting says although the need and demand for closed loop recycling back into packaging is growing, there are still opportunities to use more recycled content in non-packaging applications.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), although less commonly used in non-packaging applications, does have uses in the construction industry. PET bottles are often collected and recycled back into food packaging, which is the most beneficial route. But non-bottle PET, such as that used in thermoformed trays, is not widely recycled and much of this material goes to energy recovery.

Greater concentration of PET tray material is found in kerbside collections in countries that operate a deposit scheme on PET bottles. As the PET tray is a more brittle copolymer, it cannot be recycled into a bottle and can be technically challenging to use back in food trays. Coloured PET also faces more market limitations as the demand is largely for clear PET.

“To increase demand and therefore improve the economics of recycling PET tray material, more end markets would be beneficial,” says Richard.

One example of a non-packaging product using recycled PET is a foam PET board produced by Armacell. Working within the PlastiCircle project, the Belgian manufacturer has overcome technical challenges to develop the use of alternative sources of rPET, like PET trays, and give a second life to this packaging material, while gaining a new feedstock source.

Since 2010, Armacell has been pioneering in the production of PET foam boards based on 100% recycled post-consumer bottles flakes for a range of technical applications, such as wind energy, construction, rail and road transport and automotive, as well as general industries.

For Armacell, the challenges related to recycling PET tray material are the low intrinsic viscosity (IV), the frequent use of multilayer sheets in packaging trays and other contaminations coming from the mixed plastic household waste collection.

To achieve the correct mechanical properties for the PET foam boards, it is essential to limit raw material variations and to master material melt viscosity and pressure in the extruder. “With a combination of adapted processing parameters, as well as new melt modifier formulation, it is possible to produce foam boards from tray-PET that have a comparable quality to foam boards produced from bottle PET,” comments Lisa Scholle, Armacell’s Innovation Scientist, PET Foams.

She adds: “The possibility of using PET from trays to produce PET foam boards opens up a new source of raw material. In addition, the raw material price is likely to be lower than that of PET from post-consumer bottles in the long run.”

Richard concludes that demonstrating the use of recycled PET from trays in non-packaging applications ‘should help to progress European infrastructure’.

He adds: “Going forwards, additional financial incentive to encourage more recycling into non-packaging applications would help the sector to overcome some economic barriers. This project represents another significant step forward in the move to a circular economy for plastics because it has shown what is possible in using recycled content in quite demanding applications, which has previously not been done on such a scale.”

Employees of the month – Tadese Bhrane and Henry Tannahill

Tadese Bhrane and Henry Tannahill are the latest winners of our ‘Employee of the Month’ awards. Tadese works as an Industrial Labourer at our Trafford Park site and was nominated for his work ethic and his dedication to his role. Tadese is known for his positive attitude and his willingness to take on any task without issue.

Henry works as a Process Engineer at our Salford site and has been working hard recently on process improvements with great results. His hard work and focus meant that the improvements were implemented on time and have already proved to be very effective.