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British plastics recyclers lead the way at IdentiPlast 2013

A clothing-store mannequin and an award-winning recyclables bin, both made from UK-sourced household plastic packaging waste, served to highlight progress made by British firms in recycling challenging materials at an international conference on plastic waste recovery.

Containing 50% recycled post-consumer flexible films, the plastic male torso was produced during a project co-ordinated by Axion Polymers as part of an on-going research project and trials funded by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) to find new end applications for these types of materials.

Recycled polyethylene was prepared for use in a UK roto-moulding process to demonstrate another successful example of converting plastic waste back into useful, high-quality products – in this case a shop window clothes dummy.

At Identiplast 2013, Will Hayes, Director of Green Warehouse, impressed delegates to win the EPRO Best Recycled Product 2013 with his uBin, a recyclables container using 100% recycled polypropylene plastic, derived from pots, tubs and trays. The conference delegates took part in an ‘X-factor style’ instant electronic voting system to make Green Warehouse the winner against stiff competition from 150 international applicants, including a PVC building cladding system and PET bottle to polyester fibres process.

Speaking after the Paris event, Axion Director Keith Freegard defended the UK’s relatively poor performance in recycling plastics packaging compared to other central European countries, citing both items as examples of British success in producing ‘amazing transformations’ from supposedly difficult waste materials.
"While it’s true we’re lagging behind places like Germany and Scandinavia, most of their pots, tubs and trays and flexible films are diverted to energy from waste incineration schemes; which are not seen to be the desirable route in the UK as these non-renewable raw materials are then lost forever," said Keith.

"With investment in new recycling technologies happening here and our infrastructure developing to handle more complex plastic packaging waste, the mannequin and uBin are two excellent examples that demonstrate our emerging successes and are helping to improve our credentials," he added.

Delighted to receive the only award of the event, Will Hayes admitted his project was ‘not all plain sailing’ saying: "It was difficult because we needed a specific polymer blend with exacting properties to make the uBin and it took us a long time to find a suitable supply.

He added: "While many people at the conference were drawing attention to the UK being one of the worst plastics recyclers in Europe, we were proud to ‘fly the flag’ with our achievements. Winning the EPRO award carries much prestige within the global plastics industry. But of course, the UK as a nation still has a long way to go in terms of developing its recycling habits."

Gareth Hollinshead, Key Account Manager on Plastics at WRAP said: "These products are great examples of what can be manufactured with recycled plastic packaging from households.

"It shows that the UK is innovating to keep this valuable resource in a circular economy. WRAP is supporting industry to sort and reprocess more of this waste through the Mixed Plastics Loan Fund, as well as research projects that demonstrate commercially viable end markets for these types of plastic packaging wastes, which have been traditionally viewed as difficult to recycle."

Axion Polymers is part of the Axion Group that develops and operates innovative resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. The Group works with a wide range of clients within the recycling and process industries on the practical development of new processing and collection methods.

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