Congratulations to all winners!

The National Recycling Awards are the most prestigious and coveted awards in the waste and recycling awards.

The awards are open to all involved in recycling and waste management, from local authorities, to waste producers, waste management companies, manufacturers, energy producers, retailers, construction and corporate companies.

2013 saw some inspiring products and projects and Vertech were highly commended for Best Recycled Product of the year category.

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Railway sleepers made from waste plastic

Railway sleepers made from waste plastic, including recycled bumper scrap and old computer cases could be putting in an appearance on UK railway tracks soon, writes Patrick Walter in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI.

UK company Micron, which makes sleepers from waste polystyrene and polyethylene, has already approached UK rail track operator Network Rail with the aim of forming a partnership. Polystyrene is commonly used in disposable coffee cups, and polyethylene is more likely to be seen hanging from trees in the form of carrier bags. But the longevity of this plastic means that railway sleepers made using it can potentially last for centuries. This compares to a few decades for sleepers made from wood or concrete.

Wood and concrete also have other disadvantages. Concrete sleepers are very heavy and crack easily, and wooden sleepers require a lot of maintenance and chemical treatments to prevent them from rotting. In both cases, the sleepers have a lifetime of a few decades maximum. Stress tests have demonstrated that the plastic sleepers are at least as strong as concrete sleepers.

With the costs of maintaining the railway and underground systems spiraling, plastic sleepers therefore offer an affordable alternative. And they could help Network Rail hit its target of using 23% recycled material by 2012.

London Underground have considered using plastic sleepers in the past, but with old technologies, fire safety was an issue. This is no longer the case, however, as the new sleepers benefit from a high-tech fire retardant created to protect ammunition boxes for the US army.

Plastic sleepers have already been tested and approved in India, where Micron have a plant in production. Two US plants capable of producing more than 20 000 a month also have a production agreement with the company.

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Europe’s first bridge made from recycled plastic

recycled-plastic-bridge-structureIn Scotland, a bridge made from recycled plastic leads the way to civic scale infrastructure projects using recycled materials. A 90 foot long bridge made from over 50 tons of recycled plastic crosses the River Tweed in Scotland and is strong enough to carry load bearing vehicles up to 44 tons. The Scottish bridge is the first of its kind built in Europe and makes up the longest spans constructed from recycled plastic.

Vertech Composites, the company behind the engineering of the bridge, partnered with many of the specialists that developed the US Army Engineers’ thermoplastic composite I-beam bridge in Fort Bragg, including the School of Engineering at Cardiff University and Rutgers University’s Advanced Polymer Center.
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