The benefits of using recycled polymers

  • 7 Aug 2017

Sophie Thomas, Director of design at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce discusses the benefits of using recycled polymers from companies like Axion Polymers to ‘go green’.

The use of recycled plastics in new goods offers designers various environmental, economic and commercial benefits.

As consumers are increasingly basing purchase decisions on a product’s sustainability, manufacturers, brand owners and retailers are focusing more on ethical principles to promote their brands and build customer loyalty.

Product designers and specifiers of materials are working towards sustainable product design in a move towards a circular economy in which resources are recovered at the end of each service life and reused in new products.

In order to achieve this, designers and specifiers of materials are challenging norms and habits and focusing the material supply chain to link up the circular loop and tap into the ready and growing supply of sustainable polymers coming from the innovative waste reprocessing sector.

The local authorities in the UK, the recycling industry and the wider supply chain have made significant improvement in working towards a circular economy for plastics and reusing these valuable resources.

axion img 3Raw material scarcity needs to be considered and recycling existing polymers ensures a sustainable and consistent supply for the future. Recycled polymers typically have about 50% to 75% of the carbon impact compared to taking oil out of the ground and creating a new polymer.

Recycled polymers are high quality and greatly available, allowing for a reliable and sustainable supply of locally sourced recovered materials.

End users that enter into a long-term supply agreement with an integrated recycling business, such as those in the end-of-life vehicle or construction products sectors, can benefit from a reliable local feedstock. 

This shorter, lower risk supply chain from UK-based recyclate suppliers makes future production planning easier. 

axion img 4In addition, recycled plastics can be recycled many times through a well-structured end of life re-supply chain.

Axion Polymers produces recycled plastics derived from end-of-life vehicles to make new automotive-related products. Axion Polymers are used in various industries, including water treatment, horticulture and retail goods.

Axion benefits from in-house technical expertise that recover and refine recycled materials from end-of-life vehicle shredder residue, providing a consistent product from a guaranteed feedstock supply.

Axion Polymers Director Keith Freegard says, “Creating new manufactured products using materials resources that are ‘mined’ from closed-loop recycling provides a novel and environmentally-responsible approach for vehicle producers that is both sustainable in the long term and also lower cost.”

PVC is suitable for use in building products with green credentials as it can be readily recycled many times with no loss of performance. VEKA Recycling processes post-industrial and post-consumer PVC window frame material to a high standard of purity at its Kent site.

VEKA Recycling Commercial Director Simon Scholes explains, “Recycled PVC offers clear advantages of reliable consistent supply and, of course, improves the environmental credentials of manufacturer’s products. In releasing the reliance on virgin polymers, we are giving longer life to plastic.”

Designers need to understand the design principles that enable the efficient release and recovery of materials during the recycling process. Equally, they should recognise the ‘black marks’ that apply to poorly designed products and wrong combinations of materials. Many everyday products have simple design-for-recycling guides, created by recyclers, which explain the ‘dos and don’ts’ of good design for recyclability.

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