United Kingdom – Recycled polymers can boast a significantly smaller carbon footprint than oil-based virgin plastics – including up to 89% savings for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), according to latest research by Axion Polymers. The UK-based plastics recycler also claims that analysis has revealed a carbon saving of 82.5% for recycled high impact polystyrene (HIPS) and 73% for recycled polypropylene (PP).
The carbon dioxide emission savings are substantial, according to Axion. Its team has calculated that use of one tonne of its Axpoly ABS instead of virgin material in the manufacture of goods gives a saving of 3380 kg of CO2 – equivalent to an articulated lorry transporting the material 2272 miles. On one full load, the same lorry could be driven 45 500 miles or almost twice round the world on the equivalent CO2 savings, it is contended.
Axion Polymers produces three types of recycled polymer – Axpoly PP, ABS and HIPS – at its advanced reprocessing plants for automotive shredder residue derived from end-of-life vehicles and for waste electrical and electronic equipment. These polymers can be used as direct replacements for virgin polymer, or combined with virgin polymers to produce a high-grade polymer with recycled content for use in demanding applications.
The new Axion study was prompted by recent investment in more efficient separation processes and improvements to throughput that have increased the yield of finished polymers. Axion based its methodology on the similar process stages to making oil-based polymer from crude oil in order to enable direct comparison between process routes and resulting carbon emissions. ‘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,’ stresses Axion’s head of engineering & research Richard McKinlay.
Axion director Keith Freegard adds: ‘What we’ve confirmed is that as our process technology has developed, our throughput has increased, our efficiency has improved and our power consumption per unit output has got much better, with lower wastage and better yield. This proves to me that actually using a carbon footprint metric is a really good way of tracking if your process is an efficient conversion of waste into finished product.’
Axion is willing to provide a bespoke carbon analysis of customers’ operations to enable them to ‘benefit from the work we’ve done of measuring our own carbon footprint’.