UK-based Axion Group, which bills itself as the ‘circular economy specialist’, has launched a new ‘Design for Recycling’ service aimed at helping the plastic packaging value chain ensure that packaging placed on the market has been optimised for end of life, while maintaining its primary function of product protection.
Axion is active in the development and operation of resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. This new service is aimed at a range of stakeholders in the food and beverage supply chain.
This includes packaging designers, food manufacturers, brand owners and retailers who all have a vested interest in increasing the recyclability of plastic packaging and addressing the growing global problem of pollution from this short life, high profile products.
This service also supports those working with industry initiatives to increase the recycling of plastics and develop end markets for recycled plastics. These include Courtauld 2025, the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP), the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) and the new Plastics Economy Project.
In 2016, nearly 70% of the UK’s plastic packaging waste that was collected for recycling was exported, mainly to the Far East, according to latest WRAP figures. With the new National Sword initiative coming into effect in China, this level of export is unsustainable. To ensure recycling targets are met, ‘design for recycling’ will play a vital role in developing a more robust domestic recycling infrastructure.
Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Circular Economy, said: “The spotlight is very much on plastics. Momentum is building as the issue of how we manage packaging waste is climbing up the agendas of every nation.
On the horizon, there’s going to be a push on producer responsibility that will require packaging to be collected and recycled. Brand owners taking action now on their packaging designs can future-proof them against forthcoming issues. This would help to gain a competitive edge in a more environmentally-focussed consumer environment.”
Axion’s service is based on in-depth understanding and practical experience of the resource recovery sector, including the design, build and operation of its own plastics recycling facilities. Existing products or new packaging designs are reviewed to give an expert evaluation of the recyclability.
During the packaging design process, advice is given on material choices and product design aspects that affect the recyclability and value at end of life.
“Our analysis helps clients to understand how their packaging will be treated at end of life and how this is impacted by the design of the pack,” explained Richard. “By identifying the characteristics that reduce the material’s value at end of life, we can suggest alternative choices that can be more readily recycled.
“We do not use a pre-defined tool, so the approach to each situation is unique to ensure an optimised design can be achieved to reach the balance between function and recyclability.”
Increased recycling of plastic packaging waste in the UK would, he argued, reduce the risk of it getting into the world’s oceans. However, this requires the packaging to be ‘desirable for recyclers’. This where Axion can really add value to the packaging design process and plus the ‘knowledge gap’ that currently exists.
“To encourage investment in recycling plants, operators need to know that they will get sufficient yield and quality. So the producers putting packaging on the market that allows them to achieve those targets would help to stimulate the market,” added Richard.
Axion develops and operates innovative resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. Axion works with a wide range of clients, from Government agencies and local authorities to companies in diverse commercial sectors, on the practical development of new processing and collection methods to recover value from waste resources.