edie Sustainability Awards – our submission.

By September 20, 2018General

Summary of Entry

Aylesbury Granulation Services Ltd are a micro business with just two staff. Our whole business is about the recycling of quality segregated rigid plastic waste streams.

More recently we have tried to target, and been successful at working with, a number of plastic manufacturing companies to close the loop with their waste streams and their manufacturing processes.  So whilst the technology is not new – the innovation comes from encouraging manufacturers in a new way of thinking, acting and processing. By growing buy-in to this re-use of plastic at source, sustainability in enhanced as “we” (humans) are not using and wasting the resources needed to manufacture new plastic.

Strategy

With a very limited budget, our overall general strategy for raising awareness of our closed loop recycling service has been through enhanced marketing – exhibition, press releases, new website, and promotional literature. On an individual basis, when new post-industrial opportunities arise, we ask the firms specifically if they can make use of their own waste, post granulation.

This is now a key driver for our future growth and we have committed to exhibiting at the triennial plastics show in 2020, specifically to target plastic manufacturers and to encourage them to close their waste loop.

We have not had to add any products or systems, as our business is very easily suited to make this option available to our customers. We have, however, had to make investment in plant in order to be able to offer a full range of closed loop options. Our original machinery was able to process all “production waste”, but we recognised that a considerable weight of waste was attributable to purge / lump. As such, this year we invested in a single shaft shredder specifically capable of processing this type of waste.

As a business, we do not just process waste – we are very passionate about recycling and making the best use of our planets limited resources. The job of our business is to downsize waste plastic, but our purpose is to educate firms that generate the waste and ensure that all of the material that we process is recycled. This model is the most sustainable for us, for our customers and suppliers and for the environment as a whole.

Delivery

Our circular economy model has been delivered by our Commercial Manager – with total buy in from our one other employee, our MD!  When our Commercial Manager started at the firm in 2015, and new to this industry, the business already had one customer who had their own waste regrind returned to them for use in future production.  This model has since been replicated with other manufacturing companies in mind and is available to all plastic manufacturing companies.  We have just recently contracted with a rubber manufacturer who is planning to take their waste back, so we have already expanded the original concept, to reach another material type.

I would love to say that the delivery was very complicated, but that would not be true.  The process of closed loop recycling in the circular economy is very similar to any other model that we run – be that toll granulation for waste brokers, or buying waste streams and selling the resultant regrind.

The challenge has always been to sufficiently engage manufacturers to get them to buy in to the concept and rather than disposing of their waste, using it. There are lots of factors involved here, many of which are out of our control, unfortunately.

Innovation

For a manufacturing company that engages in closed loop recycling, to whatever degree their internal restrictions or customer demands allow, they will have completely changed the way that they see their waste.

Traditionally manufacturing waste (including end-of-life stock) has been a cost burden to the business, but by actually making use of, and deriving value from, their waste streams, firms can start to consider their waste as an asset which is to be managed.

This does create a potential disruption for these firms, who now have to care for their plastic wastes, for example, by ensuring that they are not contaminated with other factory waste streams – labels and pallet wrap are classic examples.

The biggest hurdle that we encounter on a regular basis is because of the disruption that use of a recyclate would put on the manufacturer, which stops many from trying. This includes having to draw up new specs and processes. This is very frustrating and very narrow minded on their part. Our job is to continue to try to persuade firms that we encounter to see the bigger global and environmental impact, and not just pay lip service to their ISO14001 accreditations!

As for technological improvements – that is not really what is needed for this innovation to improve sustainability. It is all about a quantum shift in “thinking” and then kaizen steps in “doing”.

Results

Because of the type of business we are, none of our “waste” is wasted, it is all recycled. However (taking tonnages year to date) 41% of our throughput has gone back directly to the manufacturer who produced it, and that regrind has gone straight back into their manufacturing process.  For our newest closed loop partner they have recycled over 22 tonnes of their waste in the last two months, which previously was going into their “general” waste skip.

There is just so much that other plastic manufacturing firms can benefit from the circular economy, and closing the loop on their waste. We are all only too aware of the dreadful ocean pollution that plastic has caused, and there are landfill sites the world over teeming with plastics, stock-piles of plastic in the Far East, shipped out for “recycling” but left unused, and much more besides.  We all have a responsibility to stop this dreadful situation.

It is our opinion that Plastic manufacturers should only produce plastic products that can be recycled and that they should be placed under increasing pressure, or even obligation, to use more and more recycled materials in their manufacturing processes.  By closing the loop on their waste streams they are contributing to the important concept of the circular economy.

And let’s not forget the fact that by subscribing to the circular economy concept they will be saving money too, as a regrind is considerably cheaper than a virgin material and by keeping the loop closed they can have absolute confidence that they know the recycled product that they are using.

Cultural Change

The circular economy innovation has not so much changed the focus of our business, but it has encouraged us to explore new avenues and target new businesses.

Quite simply the circular economy innovation for firms that embrace it, provide them with cost savings and protect the environment that bit more. By making best use of plastics, and specifically re-use of plastic, the whole process of manufacturing plastic is a more sustainable industry.  It is not possible for the environment to cope with the excessive plastic pollution that we have placed upon it in the last decades and a step change is needed, which needs to be driven from those who create the plastics in the first place.

Planning and the Future

We did not need to undertake any R&D prior to offering this service. However, we have learnt that we need to be even more careful with the processing of some materials (specifically PVC) and that we need to factor in an enhanced clean down procedure after PVC to ensure that there is absolutely no contamination to future runners.

The potential of our model is vast. The tonnages of waste material leaving plastic manufacturing companies is, frankly, disgraceful. Whilst there are some reasons why some materials cannot be re-used in the manufacturing process, there are many materials that can. However – it is very easy to just throw waste plastics away, for someone else to deal with them (or not). With pressure and good management a huge amount of plastic that is currently “thrown away” could be re-used – even if it is not in a closed loop, but by another manufacturer.

Transparency

The details of our entry are posted on our website www.agsplasticgranulation.co.uk , in the blog section.

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