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 – – 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!”

Manufacturing waste could unlock new revenue streams

‘Where there’s muck, there’s brass’, as the old saying goes. But this could ring true for manufacturers and processors who may be unaware of the financial value from the waste generated in their operations.

That’s why Axion and Stopford Energy & Environment, an international energy & environment consultancy in the waste recycling, energy and environmental sectors, have collaborated to launch a new Resource Recovery and Re-use service aimed at helping manufacturers to identify and recover valuable resources contained in their process by-products and waste streams.

Axion and Stopford Energy & Environment have combined their complementary expertise to offer manufacturers and process operators an ‘end-to-end solution’, ranging from feasibility studies to designing and commissioning processes to recover value.

“Obviously, the primary driver for clients is the financial benefit,” explains Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Engineering & Research. “Yet many firms may be unaware of the value of materials within the waste they produce that is simply disposed of to landfill without exploring more sustainable alternatives.

“What we’re offering is a consultation service that can help manufacturers to calculate the value contained within their by-product and waste streams and determine how that value can be extracted most efficiently.”

Tailored to clients’ specific needs, the service evaluates opportunities for recovering materials of value from waste streams considering both existing options and new resource recovery processes alike. It also covers a range of waste analysis, sampling and economic and environmental appraisals.

Dr Ben Herbert, Stopford’s Research & Environment Director comments: “In some sectors, waste may be viewed as a waste as opposed to a resource. Our service helps manufacturers and processors to recognise there may be value here and if they were to conduct a detailed assessment, they may find revenue-generation opportunities or cost-savings they’d never considered before.”

Following laboratory analysis, the teams use their collective knowledge of different techniques that can be used to separate, isolate or recover commodities from waste streams. Through understanding their clients’ market sectors, they can identify where these products may be of value in another industry or how they could be upgraded to have value for resale to the market.

Ben adds: “Additionally, clients who are engaged in this service can demonstrate their commitment to innovation, earn recognition for recovering resources and seeking to minimise environmental impact, with a view to being more profitable as well.


Laying down markers for plastic packaging recycling

New developments in marker technologies for sorting plastic packaging should not be viewed as ‘the answer’ to increasing recycling rates.

While methods to detect different polymer types, such as fluorescent pigments and digital watermarks, offer exciting potential they should only be seen as a way to safeguard quality, asserts Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Engineering & Research.

Meanwhile, existing Near Infrared (NIR) technology still has much ‘unexploited potential’ in recovering more packaging such as polypropylene (PP) from rigid plastics, polyethylene (PE) and PP films, which would go a long way to increasing recycling rates, he suggests.

Diversification in the plastics packaging market is leaving the established infrastructure behind. NIR technology detects polymer type, which for many years was sufficient to recover high quality PET, HDPE, LDPE film and PP, but this is changing.

Innovation in packaging has led to a more complex waste stream that contains many different components. For example, a shift for UHT milk from recyclable HDPE bottles into opaque PET containers has a negative effect on recycling. The growing use of PET in non-food products can lead to challenges when using recycled PET in new food packaging.

“This shift has brought forward the need for an alternative to NIR that can sort material on more criteria, to protect existing recycling processes and drive up quality to access higher value markets,” says Richard.

Several projects, bringing together companies throughout the supply chain, are currently researching marker techniques that provide detailed information on what packaging can and cannot be recycled. Two methods of marking being developed are fluorescent pigments and digital watermarks.

Invisible in normal lighting conditions, fluorescent pigments are easily detected under ultraviolet light. Specially chosen for optimum performance while minimising cost, they are safe for food contact applications.

Digital watermarks are patterns that can be applied in label or packaging design, or directly to the polymer surface. Having minimal visual impact, they can be detected by a camera and created at very low cost. Each marker can hold a large amount of data, such as material composition, original contents and suitability for recycling.

The development of fluorescent pigments is significantly further ahead than digital watermarking, with some European projects already completed and other close to completion.

“There is, therefore a better understanding of efficacy of fluorescent pigments. There are still many unknowns about watermarking and more independent studies are needed,” continues Richard. “Watermarking could be a powerful tool because of how much data it can hold and brand owners can gauge how much of their packaging is recycled.”

While markers offer a useful way to detect differences between food and non-food packaging, such as PET drinks bottles and PET detergent bottles, Richard warns that taking this route could lead to manufacturers using less recyclable packaging structures in future. For example, using more PET in non-food applications and reducing the subsequent quality of recyclable material.

He concludes: “People are approaching this marker technology as ‘the answer’ to increasing recycling targets. To me, it’s not. In my opinion, this marker technology should only be seen as a way to safeguard quality of materials for recycling. In terms of increasing recycling rates, I think it will have absolutely no impact. The only way to increase recycling rates is to do more sorting on more of the plastic fractions that are currently going to energy recovery because it’s not economically viable to recover them.”

Carbon footprint review shows ‘large’ savings for Axion’s recycled polymers

Recycled polymers have significantly lower carbon footprint than oil-based virgin plastics – up to 89% for ABS – according to latest research by Axion Polymers.

Axion’s 2017 Axpoly® Carbon Footprint Analysis also reveals a carbon saving of 82.5% for recycled (HIPS) and 73% for recycled (PP).

The CO2 savings are large. The team calculated that using just one tonne of Axpoly ABS instead of virgin material to make goods would give a saving of 3,380 kgs of CO2 – equivalent to a 40ft articulated lorry transporting the material 2,272 miles. On a full 20 tonnes load, the same lorry could be driven 45,445 miles or almost twice round the world on the equivalent CO2 savings.

Axion Polymers produces three types of recycled polymer: Axpoly® PP (polypropylene), ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and HIPS (high impact polystyrene),  the most common plastics used in the automotive and E&E markets over the past 15 years.

The Axpoly® polymers can be used as a direct replacement for virgin polymer, or combined with virgin polymers to produce a high-grade polymer with recycled content that can be used in demanding applications.

The new study was prompted by recent investment in more efficient separation processes and improving throughput that has increased the yield of finished polymers. The methodology was based on similar process stages to making oil-based polymer from crude oil to allow a direct comparison between the process routes and resulting carbon emissions.

The calculations were done by Axion’s Head of Engineering & Research, Richard McKinlay who says: “These ‘new metrics’ of the circular economy are the numbers that need to be considered by designers and specifiers of polymer materials when selecting plastic for use in new parts and components on all types of consumer goods and vehicles.”

Axion Director Keith Freegard explains: “What we’ve confirmed is that as our process technology has developed, our throughput has increased, our efficiency has improved and our power consumption per unit output has got much better with lower wastage and better yield; then that all pays off in an improved carbon footprint per tonne of output product.”

He continues: “This proves to me that actually using a carbon footprint metric is a really good way of tracking if your process is an efficient conversion of waste into finished product.”

Keith says customers can benefit from their analysis by demonstrating the carbon savings credited to their finished moulded products. “We’ve already heard from some customers who are excited about having a new updated number on the savings that accrue to them. We’re also happy to provide a bespoke carbon analysis on their operations so they gain the benefit from the work we’ve done of measuring our own carbon footprint.”