Axion Polymers hosted a fact-finding visit to its two Manchester recycling facilities by the lead MEP and appointed Rapporteur for drawing up regulations on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
Julie Girling, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, viewed the complex processes used to extract plastics from end-of-life vehicles at Axion’s Trafford Park and Salford sites during her tour in August.
Invited by Keith Freegard, she learnt how Axpoly® recycled polymers, derived from automotive shredder residue and electrical end-of-life feedstocks, are extracted and processed for use in a variety of new items, from drainage and ventilation products to vehicle components.
Plastic extracted from end-of-life vehicles at the Trafford Park facility is further refined at the Salford advanced processing plant. Both sites have undergone substantial investment in recent years, including new plant and laboratory facilities. These are driving growth and expanding Axion Polymers’ technical capability in supplying tailored polymers to suit specific end-user requirements, such as modified melt flow, impact resistance and tensile strength.
Concern is growing among plastics recyclers over a European Parliament proposal to set a concentration limit of 10ppm for the flame retardant decaBDE in substances and products that could negatively impact the recycling of plastics from vehicles and electronic equipment.
Keith stated: “Stricter controls on the export of low-grade waste plastics to unregulated countries should enable more investment in UK recycling, like we’ve already done. But I think that’s only going to happen by ‘demand-creating’ legislation which rewards manufacturers who demonstrate much higher levels of recycled plastics in their products; then we will see duplication of the type of plants that Axion has developed.
“A sensible and pragmatic limit is needed for the trace levels of banned BFRs in recycled plastics, to match those set under existing EU REACH regulations. That will allow for the growth of more waste plastics re-processing in Europe, but a 10ppm limit is a very big challenge.”
An ongoing study by a joint working group aims to define the position of the EU on this low POP content trace limit value. The safe limit values for both waste plastics and products made from recycled polymer under the UN’s Stockholm Convention are yet to be agreed. The next Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm and Basel Conventions will take place during 2019 where a decision is expected.
Julie, who has been dealing with recycling legislation for 10 years as an MEP, commented: “The tour was really interesting; it’s important that these companies are supported. I’ve gained further understanding of how recycling works in practice and the implications of increasing plastic’s recyclability to prevent it from ending up in the oceans.
“There’s no reason why one piece of plastic waste from Europe should be in an ocean anywhere. But in order to prevent that we have to make significant investment in developing our European recycling business and we’ve been discussing the different pieces of legislation that go towards that; some of which is very important to Axion’s business.”
Julie added: “Recycling is something that we all want to do. Not many people are prepared to accept that it’s expensive, requires a huge amount of capital investment and the payback has to be given some certainty and the only way to do that is through legislation, which is why we need to discuss the content of the legislation in some detail.”