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Designers urged to ‘challenge the norms’ in drive to increase recycled polymer use

Product designers should ‘challenge the norms’ with clients and think along more ‘circular’ lines to encourage greater uptake of recycled polymers in new goods, urges a leading plastics reprocessor.

Recognising strong market drivers, such as resource scarcity, oil price volatility and growing consumer demand for sustainable products, while working within the pre-set design constraints presented by recycled polymers, are further important factors, according to Keith Freegard, Director of Axion Polymers.

"Engaging with product specifiers and designers to make them recognise the clear environmental, economic and sustainable benefits of using recycled plastics is essential if we are to increase the uptake of recycled content in new items," he says.

"This is vital if we are to realise the wider aims of sustainable manufacturing and the circular economy," continues Keith, who will be speaking on ‘Increasing use of recycled plastics in products’ at REPLAST 2013, the British Plastics Federation’s (BPF) sixth annual plastics recycling conference on November 6.

The theme of this year’s event, at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in London, is ‘Driving Manufacturing Using Recycled Plastics’ and the conference will examine how to increase the size of the UK plastics recycling industry and its market.

Key speakers from industry will outline how positive drivers to encourage more reuse could include reducing producer responsibility obligations under the PRN system by introducing an ‘offset’ allowance for the proportion of PCR recyclates used in new products.

Designers have an important role to play in making their clients aware of the potential benefits and savings that could result from specifying and inclusion of closed-loop recyclates at an early stage in the product development process.

Pointing to Axion’s success with its Axpoly r-PP51 1047, made from 80% recovered plastic from end-of-life vehicles plus 20% from packaging waste, which goes back into new car components and Axpoly r-PS01 3067 Toy Grade polymer derived from waste fridge plastic, Keith adds: "Essentially, designers must challenge the client brief and think about circular materials flow using proven recycled polymers that can deliver multiple benefits.

"There’s enough good quality recycled material out there now for organisations to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. We’d be happy to enlighten designers if they wished to tour our recycling facilities in Manchester!

"The same positive and enthusiastic attitude applies right across the members of the BPF Recyclers Group, so marketing, procurement and product design managers should get themselves along to the REPLAST conference to learn about the potential that exists in this new material supply chain."

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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