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Green Matter: Building ties for a green future as Axion wins SPE environmental award

One of the great advantages of plastic materials is their durability. Inexpensive and long-lasting, plastics have had enormous impact on consumption habits around the world. The flip side? That same durability and sheer pervasiveness of these materials translate into a waste problem of gigantic proportions. For Axion International, a company that develops high-performance composites from recovered polyolefins, waste is not a problem, but a feedstock.

One of the great advantages of plastic materials is their durability. Inexpensive and long-lasting, plastics have had enormous impact on consumption habits around the world. The flip side? That same durability and sheer pervasiveness of these materials translate into a waste problem of gigantic proportions. For Axion International, a company that develops high-performance composites from recovered polyolefins, waste is not a problem, but a feedstock. Recognizing that the waste discarded with such gusto could be transformed into a valuable resource, the company saw an opportunity.

tank crossing bridge made of recycled plastics
Axion's recycled plastics in a bridge in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; one of the Army personnel involved in the project predicted ROI could reach 34:1 due to the low maintenance and durability of the recycled plastic bridge.
Today, Axion is a major recycling company producing structural products such as girders, pilings and railroad ties from recycled consumer and industrial plastics. And people are starting to sit up and take notice; Axion currently has a demand for more than 100,000 pounds of materials daily. Clients using Axion's Recycled Structural Composite (RSC) materials include the U.S. Department of Defense and numerous railroad companies, who have chosen Axion's sleeper over those manufactured from conventional materials such as concrete or wood. The company is also supplying the materials for a bridge made of recycled plastic in Scotland, the first of its kind to be built outside the USA.  

The company also attracted the attention of the Society of Plastics Engineers, who this year named Axion as a winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award for its demonstrated 'environmental leadership and excellence'.

"Axion is thrilled to be named as a winner of the Environmental Stewardship Awards," stated Axion's chief technology officer, Jim Kerstein. "We consider it an honor to represent the recycling industry as the SPE seeks to recognize us for the breakthrough work that we have achieved in the rail and bridge industries, as we have employed cutting-edge technology and engineering to pioneer a long-term and environmentally-friendly solution to existing infrastructure issues."

As PlasticsToday has reported before, Axion's proprietary RSC material was developed in conjunction with Rutgers University's Center for Advanced Materials via Immiscible Polymer Processing (AMIPP), a group of collaborative researchers and stakeholders dedicated to exploring immiscible polymer blends and the novel structures and materials obtained by processing such blends. These experts came up with a blend of recycled HDPE and automotive bumper scrap  (PP and fiberglass) combining the best properties of both and yielding a material that, when properly blended, has structural properties with a specific strength higher than steel. The patents are owned by Rutgers University; Axion is the exclusive licensee.

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