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Colour Tone Masterbatch wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2022!

We’re proud and delighted to share the news that Colour Tone Masterbatch Ltd, part of the Luxus Group, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2022. Find out more here.

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious awards for UK businesses, recognising and celebrating business excellence across the UK. Colour Tone has achieved this award through the development and implementation of our patented Near infrared (NIR) detectable black colourants, which enable the automatic sorting and therefore recycling of black post-consumer mixed plastics. To date it is estimated that this technology has diverted over 10,000 tonnes of plastic from landfill.
 
Simon Atterby, General Manager at Colour Tone Masterbatch ltd, said:
“We are incredibly proud to have received this prestigious award, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the whole team. The management of plastics is, without doubt, one of the greatest challenges we all face as we try to build a cleaner, greener future for the generations to come.”
 
Black plastic is mistakenly perceived by many consumers as a particular problem, due to it being regarded as single use and impossible to recycle. In fact, the polymer itself is perfectly recyclable, however, when coloured in a traditional way, it cannot be recognised by the near infra-red sorting equipment in post-consumer sorting facilities and thus is diverted to landfill. Colour Tone recognised this and, through an innovative approach, developed and patented a product, which allows brand owners to continue to colour as they wish (including black) but via a colouring technology that is optimised for post-consumer sorting, therefore allowing the product to be identified and thereby diverted from landfill and recycled; a sustainable solution for both black plastics and other products which would otherwise not have been sorted.
 
Tony Gaukroger, is one of the original founders of Colour Tone and creators of the NIR product, he said:
 
“We recognised that a fundamental part of tackling the challenge was developing technology that enabled the effective recycling of black plastic, so we applied our years of experience and insight and invested significant time and resources into making it happen. We look forward to continuing to play our part in driving innovation and applying our specialist knowledge to build a cleaner, brighter future for our industry.”
 
Colour Tone’s expertise in this area means that we can offer consultation to customers and help them to adopt more sustainable packaging solutions with reduced carbon footprint, whilst maintaining a competitive price.
 
If you would like to find out more about this achievement, or any other aspect of Colour Tone, including career opportunities, please visit: www.colourtonemasterbatch.co.uk.
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Colour Tone Masterbatch wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2022!
We’re proud and delighted to share the news that Colour Tone Masterbatch Ltd, part of the Luxus Group, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2022. Find out more here.

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious awards for UK businesses, recognising and celebrating business excellence across the UK. Colour Tone has achieved this award through the development and implementation of our patented Near infrared (NIR) detectable black colourants, which enable the automatic sorting and therefore recycling of black post-consumer mixed plastics. To date it is estimated that this technology has diverted over 10,000 tonnes of plastic from landfill.
 
Simon Atterby, General Manager at Colour Tone Masterbatch ltd, said:
“We are incredibly proud to have received this prestigious award, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the whole team. The management of plastics is, without doubt, one of the greatest challenges we all face as we try to build a cleaner, greener future for the generations to come.”
 
Black plastic is mistakenly perceived by many consumers as a particular problem, due to it being regarded as single use and impossible to recycle. In fact, the polymer itself is perfectly recyclable, however, when coloured in a traditional way, it cannot be recognised by the near infra-red sorting equipment in post-consumer sorting facilities and thus is diverted to landfill. Colour Tone recognised this and, through an innovative approach, developed and patented a product, which allows brand owners to continue to colour as they wish (including black) but via a colouring technology that is optimised for post-consumer sorting, therefore allowing the product to be identified and thereby diverted from landfill and recycled; a sustainable solution for both black plastics and other products which would otherwise not have been sorted.
 
Tony Gaukroger, is one of the original founders of Colour Tone and creators of the NIR product, he said:
 
“We recognised that a fundamental part of tackling the challenge was developing technology that enabled the effective recycling of black plastic, so we applied our years of experience and insight and invested significant time and resources into making it happen. We look forward to continuing to play our part in driving innovation and applying our specialist knowledge to build a cleaner, brighter future for our industry.”
 
Colour Tone’s expertise in this area means that we can offer consultation to customers and help them to adopt more sustainable packaging solutions with reduced carbon footprint, whilst maintaining a competitive price.
 
If you would like to find out more about this achievement, or any other aspect of Colour Tone, including career opportunities, please visit: www.colourtonemasterbatch.co.uk.

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Odour Control: Identifying odour and deodourising recycled polymers
Of the UK’s 260,000 tonnes of post-consumer polypropylene waste, under 1% is recycled into high quality products (e.g. automotive applications). One of the main reasons for this is the fact that polymers retain odours from their previous applications (e.g. containers for food, sauces, detergents), which deems them unviable for use in the production of high value products. 

The Odour Control project aims to create a validated prototype of a process to provide a cost-effective method for identifying odour and deodourising recycled polymers, which can then be implemented during the manufacture of higher value products. 

Project Outcomes 
• We’re delighted to say that we have installed a state-of-the-art, modified laboratory-scale extrusion line with vast flexibility of machine configuration for development of the process 

• The project consortium has also designed and built bespoke processing technology, which is undergoing operational testing 

• Laboratory trials for experimentation on the deodourising prototypes and their effectiveness are being carried out in the coming months and into next year 

We are currently in talks to develop this important piece of work further. Odour control is one of the key challenges in the arena of utilising recycled plastics, so we are committed to playing our part in finding a viable, long term solution.  

Our sincere thanks to our funding body, Innovate UK and to our project partners, the University of LincolnMatrix Moulding Systems and IPL Global.

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NIRPlas: Creating multilife certifiable NIR detectable polymer
An estimated 370,000 tonnes in the UK and an estimated 4 million tonnes in the EU of plastic is sent to landfill because the plastic type cannot be identified, despite it being suitable for recycling. 

This is because the vast majority of recycling sorting facilities use Near Infra-red (NIR) scanning technology, to identify and separate plastic from household waste into its different polymers. Any plastics which contain carbon black pigment (e.g. black, brown, dark green, dark blue colours) are not identifiable as the carbon black absorbs the infra-red waves and inhibits them from reflecting back to the sensor. 

As such, we wanted to develop a solution to this major challenge in the handling of plastics against the background of the UK’s environmental aspirations. We had already proven the concept of developing NIR detectable pigment systems but now we are seeking to take this project to the next level.  

Project Objectives 
• The concept of NIR detectable pigment systems has been proven in previous work, which has produced black and dark coloured plastics that can be identifiable to NIR scanning technology and subsequently recycled. 

• The NIRPlas project concept is to gain new scientific understanding of the inter-relationship between a plastic’s first life and its subsequent lives (e.g. after multiple loops of recycling, product manufacturing, recycling again) in terms of its visual changes and integrity of the plastic, when NIR detectable pigment systems are used. 

• The NIRPlas project is also aiming to develop a novel, continuous NIR and visual inspection system so that the manufacture of NIR detectable polymer compounds can be certifiable, meaning there is added confidence that they can be recycled when being processed through a recycling sorting facility. 

Project Outcomes 
• An exceptional scientific understanding of NIR detectable plastics has been achieved. Across multiple plastic types, no significant differences in integrity have been identified for plastics being processed through a life cycle of up to 4 times, when compared with traditional pigmented plastics. 

• The design and construction stages of the continuous NIR and visual inspection system have been completed with excellent results. Operational testing has been successfully conducted and ongoing modifications are planned. The prototype was fitted on to Luxus’ main production line in May 2021 for full-scale operational trails. 

Our sincere thanks to our funding body, Innovate UK and to our project partners, Colourtone MasterbatchThe Technology Research Centre and Berry Global.  

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Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to expedite bespoke solutions
We are delighted to announce that the first version of our new artificial intelligence and machine learning system has now been developed, utilising many years’ of stored historical formulation data. The testing of the first version, to identify the effectiveness and operational performance, will be conducted across the latter months of 2021 using ‘real world’ situations. 

There is wide variation in incoming recycled plastics (due to variation in first life product polymers being recycled at a specific time), meaning meeting customer specifications can be challenging as every batch of material requires a unique formulation. 

Our unique formulations are derived experimentally, to meet the plastic’s physical specifications (e.g. impact strength) and colour. This is determined through the know-how of our highly experienced laboratory technicians but can still be significantly time consuming. 

Project Objective 
As such, we wanted to develop a sophisticated artificial intelligence system that will accurately formulate polymer blends to the required physical colour specifications of a repeatable consistent plastic compound grade, using the most efficient and lowest cost option of the ever-changing incoming recycled plastics. 

What are the positive outcomes of this project? 
• A reduction in resources required for trial-and error iterations 
• A reduction in waste materials, through a greater degree of accuracy 
• An increase in the proportion of lower grade recycled plastics utilised 

Our sincere thanks to our funding body, WRAP and our project partners, The Technology Research Centre.  

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Terry Burton Retires!
Following the celebration of Terry Burton's 40 years’ service with Luxus last year, we bid a fond farewell to Terry, who retired from Luxus this month (for a well-deserved rest).
 
He joined Luxus in 1979, that same year Blondie’s single ‘Heart of Glass’ topped the charts and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published, it was also the year that he met his future wife.
 
Having joined Luxus as an Extrusion Operator, he progressed to Technical Manager, a crucial role that required him to lead the polymer development team, working at the forefront of sustainable thermoplastics innovation.
 
In 1979, things were very different, Terry explains: “As an Extrusion Operator it was my job to ensure the smooth running of a small strand line extruder. I was responsible for the entire process from extruding the polymer to checking it for quality control purposes - it was very ‘hands-on’ then.
 
“The work culture was great however, as everyone knew each other by name and there was a real family-like atmosphere, since there were just 20 staff. But things can’t stay the same, Luxus currently employs 160 staff at the plant on the Fairfield Industrial Estate here in Louth, but we still share those same company values.”
 
In those early days, R&D was as critical to the company’s success as it is today. In 1982, and ahead of the market, Luxus developed its first technical ‘hub’ for materials development, testing and analysis, and Terry gained a Lab Technician role.
 
Terry continued: “I oversaw all polymer preparation and testing, which meant keeping test batches running throughout the night. As the business grew we quickly needed to recruit staff to help manage the night shift and to enable us to expand into weekends, it was the beginning of our dedicated technical team.”
 
Then, by the early 1990s, the technical operation became critical, as Luxus needed to satisfy nationally-recognised quality standards, since it was now being audited by major automakers as it was one of the first UK compounders to engineer polypropylene for under bonnet parts.
 
After managing the lab for eight years, Terry was promoted to General Manager, where he was responsible for both the factory and the technical team for over a decade. Then later in 2008, these functions were split due to company growth. Developing new products was now a priority and since Terry had always been passionate about making things, he was promoted to Technical Manager.
 
The lab ensured product consistency and performance of all prime and recycled feedstocks, by undertaking stringent testing and quality control procedures. In recent years, investment in new specialist machinery including FTIR spectroscopy meant that the business had outgrown its facilities. In 2012, Luxus responded by investing in a new purpose built Technical Centre, this unique facility allowed its technicians to deliver exceptional, repeatable quality across every batch of polymer it produced, for environmentally-critical applications.
 
“I have one of the best roles in the business, with new products always comes fresh challenges, as we are increasingly using interesting and novel additives to support demands for enhanced scratch resistance and light-weighting to help stretch the boundaries in sustainable plastics technology.
 
“While rapid change in the auto industry is also helping to drive our materials development like never before. Increasingly electrification, connectivity, autonomous driving and car sharing are all going to impact on what we demand from high performance materials in the future.”
 
Luxus Managing Director, Peter Atterby, comments: “Throughout his 40 year career Terry has been essential to our success, enabling us to transform from a burgeoning recycler to a £25m turnover technical innovator. As we continue to meet challenges, he is now sharing his expertise with a new generation of apprentices to develop materials that our customers will demand tomorrow.”
 
At his celebratory lunch, Terry was presented with a 40 year old vintage Port. The gift was chosen as Terry is better known by his colleagues as ‘Top Shelf Terry’ as he has a taste for quality spirits.

We bid a fond farewell to Terry as a manager in October 2020, as he strides confidently into his well-earned retirement. On leaving the building, Terry was disappointed he could not offer lots of hugs to his fellow colleagues, due to strict social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we threw a delightful hamper at him to help make up for it! 
 
If you’re interested in a career with Luxus find us on facebook @Luxus.Limited for the latest vacancies.
 
Ends

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Luxus Gains EuCertPlast Accreditation For Good Practice
4th June 2019

Technical knowledge based plastics compounder and recycler Luxus has received accreditation from EuCertPlast www.eucertplast.eu, the European wide scheme that provides a common standard for post-consumer plastics recycling.

EuCertPlast certification works to the European standard EN 15343: 2007 and accesses both the practice and quality of output from audited recyclers. The scheme aims to encourage environmentally friendly plastics recycling process by standardising it.

Prior to its implementation, the plastics market was very fragmented with each individual European collector association following their own rules, so there was no common standard for recyclers to follow.

This certification not only seeks to increase the transparency of the European plastics industry by integrating these varying auditing schemes into one common standard, but it also aims to determine the best recycling and trading practices too.

The overall goals of the scheme include: - an increase in recycling rates; the development of new innovative applications for recyclates; increased transparency and the fulfilment of REACH requirements for recyclers.

Simon Thompson, quality manager, Luxus, explains: “This scheme recognises recyclers such as ourselves for operating to the highest standards and implementing best practices. But it also gives our customers the confidence that when specifying recycled materials they are fully traceable and of the highest quality.

“So we fully support EuCertPlast and the operating standards it requires, since it helps drive up the quality of recyclates, increasing market demand and enabling the creation of new more sustainable applications.”

The standards and requirements that are examined for EuCertPlast certification are also on the check list when applying for the well-known Blue Angel Eco-Label that awards environmentally friendly products and services.

For more information visit www.luxus.co.uk

Ends

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