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Post-consumer film recycling possible within 4 years, predicts Axion

Closed-loop recycling of post-consumer and retail waste plastic films could become a full-scale commercial reality within four years, predicts Axion Consulting, following the outcome of successful feasibility trials.

Refuse sacks, external hoardings, shelving and in-store displays are among various new products that could be made from waste supermarket plastics and either sold or used within their store networks, says the Manchester-based resource recovery specialist.

Axion worked with three leading manufacturers – CeDo, Centriforce Products and Protomax Plastics – on a series of demonstration trials of post-consumer films sourced from a leading retailer’s front and back of store collections.

Axion’s research, funded by WRAP, shows it is technically possible to manufacture commercially useful products for the retail sector from mixed post-consumer film packaging. You can view the report here – http://www.wrap.org.uk/downloads/MDP041_Recycling_post_consumer_film_trials_report_FINAL.792bb753.11204.pdf.

According to Axion Director Roger Morton, the ‘great potential’ shown by the studies should give manufacturers confidence to invest in production capability, which in turn would stimulate Local Authorities to accept waste plastic films in their recycling collections. He predicts this could happen within two to four years.

"This is a tremendous step in the right direction to really grow film recycling capacity in the UK over the next few years," says Roger. "Consumers want to see their plastic waste given a new second life as they’re now far more conscious of what they’re throwing away. Ultimately, consumer demand will drive this whole closed-loop recycling process."

The trial at CeDo’s Telford facility produced refuse sacks that met existing product specifications using 100% UK-sourced recycled content from household waste. Previously European recyclate had to be used due to waste quality issues here. CeDo is now working with retailers to launch new products.

According to David Brookes, CeDo’s Technical Development Director, retailers are showing increasing signs of wanting to manage their plastic waste derived from their own supply chain and retail stores back into products they sell.

"The WRAP study run by Axion demonstrates technically that this is possible," he says. "Of critical importance is to develop upon this technical foundation to deliver economic solutions."

David adds: "CeDo are firmly behind these initiatives and will continue to develop the technology to provide an economic closed loop model for our key customers in the UK and the wider EU."

The other two successful manufacturing trials with Centriforce and Protomax focussed on boards made from comingled film waste that could be used for a variety of applications, such as hoardings, security panels and shelving. Both firms are continuing to work on product specifications and with retailers to open up market opportunities.

Developments in these types of products, which can effectively incorporate post-consumer mixed-packaging plastics, are on the increase. One example is Protomax, a manufacturer of a plywood substitute from waste plastics, whose foamed-core plastic board and panels are being used successfully in many construction applications.

Roger adds: "While the financial viability of these potential products needs to be explored further, we believe the real interest shown by the retail sector could lead to exciting developments in the future. To that end, Axion is continuing its research into innovative closed-loop recycling solutions to divert thousands of tonnes of plastic packaging waste from landfill."

Part of the Axion Group, Axion Consulting develops and optimises processing and collection methods to recover value from waste resources for a wide range of clients within the recycling and process industries.

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