Closing loop on waste plastics could spark renaissance in British manufacturing

Recycled polymers could stimulate a return to plastic manufacturing in the UK as changing attitudes towards sustainability and rising costs for Far Eastern producers present new market opportunities for Britain.

According to reprocessor expert Keith Freegard who heads up Axion Polymers, tapping into the UK’s plastics recycling infrastructure, could herald a bright future for firms that have traditionally struggled to compete against the manufacturing might of Asian producers.

He highlights examples of certain product types returning to the UK as importers review the balance of benefits versus cost in the face of high real-estate prices, rising labour and electricity costs and onerous custom transfers in China.

“New market opportunities are emerging in the UK as branded producers and retailers recognise the need to offer customers a more sustainable product using raw materials that have been recycled in the UK,” he said.

His company is already supplying UK-sourced 100% recycled polymers derived from waste fridge and ELV plastics to UK-based manufacturers for a variety of closed-loop applications. These include automotive and washing machine component manufacture.

According to Freegard, UK plastic producers who can engage with product buyers could deliver a double-whammy of product benefits – raw materials which have been recycled and moulded back into new plastic-rich products in UK factories using UK-developed processes and design moulds.

Key benefits include short supply chains, reduced lead times and simpler stock management.

“I can only foresee a growing trend for some manufacturing to migrate back to the UK,” he added.

Maxine Perella

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