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.