News

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.

Collaborate to create end markets for recycled polymers

Collaborate to produce end markets for recycled polymer

Collaboration between injection moulders and manufacturers, and plastic recyclers is key to creating new end markets for recycled polymers, meet rising demand for recycled content and improve the overall economics of recycling.

With more manufacturers, especially those in the automotive and electrical sectors, looking to increase recycled content in new goods, this presents opportunities for injection moulders to consider alternatives to virgin material.

At Axion’s two processing sites, plastics recovered from end-of-life vehicles (auto shredder waste) and waste electrical goods are refined into high-quality engineering polymers that match virgin material quality. Our bespoke recycled Axpoly® and Axplas® polymers can be tailored to suit clients’ specifications for use in a wide range of new products.

The economic feasibility of recycling depends upon stable end markets, that justify the cost of processing. Moulders who work with recyclers on understanding physical polymer properties, and crucially, engage in practical trials to understand the suitability of a recycled polymer in new applications can gain a competitive advantage in emerging circular economy markets.

Ambitious aims on the recycling of packaging, and a growing desire to recycle more non-packaging products including plastics from End of Life Vehicles and Waste Electronics and Electrical equipment are driving manufacturers to seek new solutions and incorporate more recycled content.

Fear over a proposed tax on packaging without recycled content being possibly extended to other markets is also cited as a driver for the desire to include recycled materials in new goods.

Some closed loop recycling exists, primarily in PET and HDPE packaging. Although closed loop recycling is not vital, if it can be achieved it allows for the same grade of polymer to be reused in the same application. This removes some of the technical barriers of using recycled content.

However, in many cases, closed loop cannot be achieved because products may be collected in a mixed stream, where separation of different polymer grades is not technically or economically possible. In this case, manufacturers need to consider using alternative polymer types or blends if they want to increase recycled content.

This brings a potential technical barrier.

In many cases, a moulded product is designed to use a specific grade of polymer with very specific properties. The company that produces the moulded product may not be involved in specifying the material, and so will be reluctant to use any polymer that does not conform to the exact original specification.

The potential technical barrier then becomes a “resistance” to use recycled content due to past perceptions about its ability to meet virgin material specifications and perceptions about the quality of recycled materials. In many cases however, products do not need such rigid specifications, and in reality, a wide range of different grades of a polymer or even different blends of polymers may work well in certain applications.

Blending PE and PP from plastic film to use in injection moulding of “PP” products is a prime example of what can work successfully. Products such as crates, bins and buckets can even benefit from a PE/PP blend as the properties can complement each other.

Axion Polymers Business Development Manager Mark Keenan points out that although physical properties of recycled polymers are important to measure, conducting trials using the material provides a more detailed picture.

He says: “Moulders should work with recyclers to ensure that the recycled polymer is as suitable as possible for an application. At Axion Polymers, we work with our customers to get recycled content into their products or help them use a different polymer formulation altogether.”

“We assist moulders at every step, right through to setting up their machinery to enable them to use alternative recycled polymers. Practical trials are the only way to truly understand the suitability of a recycled polymer.”

Mark concludes: “With the desire to recycle more and more materials, end markets need to be continuously developed. Full supply chain collaboration can ensure there are stable end markets and provide the “pull” effect to boost the overall economics of recycling.”

RecoMed PVC takeback scheme launches new website

RecoMed, the PVC takeback scheme for single-use medical devices, has launched its new website – www.recomed.co.uk – in response to rising interest from the healthcare sector in reducing and recycling plastic waste.

Set up in 2014, RecoMed provides an alternative, sustainable disposal route for waste medical items, such as oxygen masks and tubing, made from high-quality medical grade PVC. The new website contains all the information potential participants need, including how RecoMed works, case studies and latest news, which is also shared on Twitter via @RecoMedUK.

Currently 37 NHS and private hospitals are actively participating in the scheme across the UK – from Plymouth to Newcastle – with more set to join in the coming months. Run by Axion in partnership with the British Plastics Federation (BPF), RecoMed is funded by VinylPlus®, the voluntary sustainable development programme of the European PVC industry.

The first scheme of its kind in Europe, RecoMed coordinates every step in the recycling journey – from providing PVC collection bins in hospitals to delivering the shredded plastic to specialist recyclers where it is turned into horticultural products, such as tree-ties.

To date nearly 22.5 tonnes of PVC has been recycled – the equivalent of about 747,000 oxygen masks. The majority of this total, more than nine tonnes, was collected and recycled in 2019 alone.

Mick Claes, Senior Consultant at Axion and project leader for RecoMed says the new website is very timely, given the current ‘huge swell of public interest’ behind reducing plastic waste.

Welcoming the new website, he comments: “The scheme is growing, and we are seeing keen interest from healthcare professionals who are very aware of plastic waste generated through their procedures, such as anaesthetics for example.

“That’s why we have provided more detail on what RecoMed can accept, the benefits to participants and how to make the scheme a success in your hospital. People are used to recycling at home and they want to do this at work too.”

Around 8 million UK hospital procedures each year result in the disposal of single-use PVC masks and similar devices that could safely be recycled. These devices are currently sent to landfill or incineration, wasting resources and costing the NHS substantial sums in waste management.

Outlining future plans for RecoMed, Mick says partnerships with other healthcare sector stakeholders are being discussed to facilitate the rollout to more hospitals. He adds: “We are also looking to partner with other PVC product manufacturers and find new ‘circular’ applications for the recycled material. Our goal is simple: to increase medical PVC device recycling rates.”

Recovinyl: UK is top contributor to PVC recycling scheme

The UK is second in Europe (behind Germany) in collecting and recycling waste PVC with a total of 137,989 tonnes recycled here in 2018 across all PVC recycling formats. Of this total, PVC window profiles accounted for 73,703 tonnes, according to latest industry figures.

The UK’s sizeable effort represents around 19% of the 739,525 tonnes of waste PVC recycled throughout Europe in 2018 – a new record high. Across Europe, window profiles and related building products accounted for 44% of the total PVC recycled.

Recovinyl®, the PVC industry’s recycling scheme, was the largest contributor to this total and registered a total of 734,568 tonnes of PVC waste entirely recycled in Europe in 2018 – a 15.6% increase from 2017. In Europe, the demand for recycled rigid PVC is currently very high, indicating the potential for further strengthening collection and recycling schemes.

Two new UK Recovinyl recyclers

Recovinyl has further sharpened its certification and audit schemes to ensure maximum reliability of collected data and of recyclates traceability, both from recyclers and converters. Over the last 12 months, two new recyclers who focus on rigid PVC have joined the UK Recovinyl network – Tecvyn in Hull and Recycling PVC in Manchester, making a total of 24 accredited recyclers across the country. While across Europe, 11 new recyclers have signed up in the first half of 2019.

Axion is Recovinyl’s Regional Representative for the UK. Welcoming the ongoing upwards PVC recycling trend, Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Consulting says: “Recovinyl is a great success story and there’s still a huge demand for recycled PVC. Much of what is being collected is post-consumer material and we’re doing a really good job in the UK, but we’d like to collect and recycle even more to meet the demand. That’s why it’s important to recycle these frames, for all the right reasons.”

Optimisation in cutting technology has resulted in fewer and smaller post-industrial off-cuts for recycling, as Richard notes: “Fabricators have become more efficient at cutting profiles and getting more frames out of their bar lengths. As people get better at reusing offcuts or minimising off-cut material, it’s become even more important to capture more post-consumer material for recycling.”

PVC recycling can ‘lead the way’

Hinting that construction is the next sector after packaging to come under scrutiny in terms of waste, Richard says PVC’s now-established recycling infrastructure can ‘lead the way’ in setting an example for the treatment of other waste construction materials.

For fabricators and installers, recycling PVC makes ‘economic and environmental sense’ says Richard: “The PVC recyclers will pay for good quality material, so there’s an economic incentive for fitters and with a recycling network across the UK, there’s an outlet; no need to throw it in a skip. Everyone can do their bit to protect the environment and even the smallest installation company should look at how they can recycle and who their nearest recycler is.”

Segregating PVC frames and off-cuts is important, adds Richard, as this helps to maintain quality and the market value of the material.

Simon Scholes, Managing Director of VEKA Recycling Ltd, one of the first Recovinyl recyclers in the UK, observes that window companies, particularly larger fabricators, are generating less PVC waste. “Less production waste is a positive thing,” he says. “As the industry has become more professional, it is getting better at collecting waste PVC and sending less to landfill. That’s helping to bring sustainability to the industry as a whole.”

Simon adds: “The material is out there, and we can help companies of all sizes to recycle their waste PVC frames and off-cuts. People are catching onto recycling and attitudes towards this are improving. We’re going in the right direction!”

PVC can be recycled multiple times without any loss of performance and reused in many diverse new and long-life products from construction products such as windows to flooring and electrical components.

Cumulatively, almost 5 million tonnes of PVC have been recycled within the Vinyl 2010 and VinylPlus frameworks across Europe since 2000, with around 10 million tonnes of CO2 saved. Check out your nearest Recovinyl recycler at https://recovinyl.com/all-recyclers.

Axion Polymers successfully renews ISO 9001 certification

Axion Polymers has successfully renewed its ISO management system certification at both its Manchester plastics recycling sites – and gained a new ISO18001 Health and Safety standard for the Salford facility.

Following an audit conducted by LRQA, Axion Polymers has been recertified for its ISO 9001 quality management systems at its Salford and Trafford Park sites. Based on seven quality principles, ISO 9001 certification covers all aspects of the plants’ operations, from manufacture to supply and customer service.

Axion’s Commercial Operations Manager Laura Smith comments: “We’re proud to have achieved renewal of our Lloyds Register ISO 9001 quality standards accreditation and this is testimony to the rigorous quality management procedures we have in place.

“Our customers can be assured that all Axpoly® and Axplas® products are manufactured according to the highest quality standards. Quality runs through everything we do.”

While the Trafford Park site has been recertified for OHSAS 18001, the Health and Safety management systems standard, it’s the first time that Salford facility has achieved this certification. OHSAS 18001 demonstrates a strict compliance with Health and Safety procedures.

Praising the team’s efforts, Axion’s General Manager Judith Clayman says: “Achieving this standard at both sites is a key goal for our company. The Health and Safety of our employees, subcontractors and visitors is our highest priority from their first footstep on site and subsequently throughout our entire operation.

“I am delighted that the whole team’s hard work has been rewarded with the certification. It demonstrates that robust implementation of policies, procedures and controls is in place to achieve excellent working conditions and workplace health and safety across the whole business. We will now be focussing our efforts on achieving ISO 45001, the new enhanced Health and Safety standard.”

Judith adds that Axion’s next step is to work towards achieving the environmental management standard ISO 14001 for both sites.