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Choosing recycled plastics has huge carbon benefits

Manchester-based recycling specialist Axion Polymers says the carbon savings of using recycled instead of virgin plastic can reach nearly 90 per cent - and ‘clever brands’ should take note.

Manchester-based recycling specialist Axion Polymers says the carbon savings of using recycled instead of virgin plastic can reach nearly 90 per cent - and ‘clever brands’ should take note.

The Axion Group, which has sites in Trafford, Salford and Stockport, develops and operates innovative resource recovery and process solutions for recycling waste materials.

The company calculated that its recycled ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) - widely used in extrusion and injection moulding - has up to a 89 per cent lower carbon footprint than virgin ABS.

Similar numbers are achievable with other recycled polymer types processed by Axion, including high impact polystyrene (HIPS) and polypropylene (PP), which have 82.5 per cent and 73 per cent lower carbon footprints than their virgin counterparts respectively. 

‘New metrics’

According to the company, using one tonne of its own ABS plastic instead of virgin material to make a product would generate a saving of 3.3 tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to a 40ft articulated lorry transporting the material 2,272 miles. 

On one full load, the same lorry could be driven 45,500 miles - almost twice round the world - on the equivalent CO2 savings.

Richard McKinlay, head of engineering and research at Axion, said: “These ‘new metrics’ of the circular economy are the numbers that need to be considered by designers and specifiers of polymer materials when selecting plastic for use in new parts and components on all types of consumer goods and vehicles.”

‘Generate customer loyalty’

As the move to recycled plastics gathers pace, director Keith Freegard added that companies should recognise the brand benefits up for grabs, no matter if it is “for a vacuum cleaner, drinks bottle, or parts in a vehicle”.

“Alongside the environmental benefits of using recycled content versus oil-based virgin polymers, designers should consider consumers’ growing concern at how we are using our planet’s limited resources and incorporate fresh thinking in their plans.

“In the last few years, there’s been a huge wave of consumer reaction to plastics largely due to news headlines of beach and ocean litter. Clever brands are realising they need to vary their business model to deliver more sustainable, environmentally-beneficial attributes that fit with their customers’ expectations of ‘doing their bit’ for the environment.

“Ultimately, through communicating that a product contains recycled plastics, you could increase the enjoyment in the use phase for the customer. What better way of generating customer loyalty.”