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Ron Tonn - plastics recycling pioneer and founder of Lincolnshire compounder and recycler Luxus, died suddenly on Wednesday 12th August 2015 from heart failure. He was 83 years old.

Born in Chicago in 1932 amidst the Great Depression, he went on to become a US army veteran having seen active service in the Korean War in his early twenties.

Ron Tonn, whose career in plastics spanned five decades began trading in polymers for American based Muehlstein in the mid 1950’s. He was subsequently sent to the UK to help manage the company’s European arm at the age of 25, which he headed up just a year later.

He was later to establish his own business, Luxus on the 15th January 1965. The name Luxus came from his German grandmother, since she often described him as her ‘Du bist ein luxus kind’ which literally translates as luxury’s child.

At the company’s incorporation, it became his ‘luxury child’ since he didn’t have sufficient finance for such a venture at the time. Luxus was also a preferred brand name adopted by German manufacturers to suggest luxury e.g. The Opal Luxus.

Ron Tonn’s early projects included doing a couple of national TV adverts in front of the camera for major household names Oxo and St Bruno Tobacco. A long term income however, would not come from that route.

Then one day he received a call from an old Muehlstien contact offering him a parcel of substandard polyethylene to sell. He knew instantly how to find a willing buyer and so another offer quickly followed. Both deals realised more profit than he had made in the previous two years - his new venture was born.

His burgeoning plastics recovery business was quickly growing, so he approached a small granulation company Mavelat, to fulfil its custom granulation work. This was done from its factory based in St Albans that was later to relocate to Eve Street in Louth in 1967. At that time everything was loaded by hand out of Louth with a lot of export going via rail.

Peter Laking, engineering and project manager at Luxus recalls those early days: “We always had the upmost respect for Ron. He was never afraid to get his hands dirty, he’d help with the granulator work if needed and wanting to understand everything there was to know about the materials we were using.

“More than that, he wanted to incentivise us all too. In the early days when we were sifting powder, he said “If you can sift 10 tonnes a day I’ll buy you a bottle of whisky!” When we did he bought the team a gallon of whisky – those were of course very different times!”
Ron Tonn often described coming to the UK as his true ‘rebirth’, since it marked for him a fundamental shift from simply trading  plastics in the ‘old days’ in America. Luxus was instead about recovering existing waste plastics by re-engineering material that would otherwise be destined for landfill.

The mantra ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ was gaining popularity in the mid 1960s. The time was right for Ron Tonn’s sustainable ethos. Marking the beginning of what we now understand as today’s plastics recovery industry.

He was later to become a British citizen too, proof enough of his belief in his business and his affection for his newly adopted homeland.

Modernity came when Luxus had the opportunity to purchase nylon scrap from pads used for rail tracks laid on concrete tiles for a ready market in America. This required joint investment in a heavy duty granulator, so a formal partnership with Mavelat began.

Luxus however, was soon to do the bulk of the business so the joint venture quickly became cumbersome for this entrepreneur. Ron Tonn then had to raise the necessary funds to buy out of the Mavelat partnership which he did manage to secure. This as it happens was great timing, just before the 1970’s oil crisis when demand for recycled plastics was to spiral.

In 1976 Luxus was one of the first businesses to buy premises on the Fairfield Industrial Estate in Louth. Ron Tonn continued to manage the business successfully despite the subsequent 1980’s recession before retiring in 1997. His true ‘back to the floor’ approach to decision making has been passed to its present managing director, Peter Atterby.

Peter Atterby, managing director, Luxus, described Ron Tonn as “a dear friend, a great and charismatic man and one of the UK’s few genuine plastics recycling pioneers. Ron created a business that was managed largely by hand in the early days to one that was at the very forefront of technology accelerating with a growing plastics industry. Luxus as a result, became a true leader in its field. He will be very sadly missed.”

The business that Ron Tonn started as a young American entrepreneur turned 50 this year. At its golden anniversary celebration, he paid tribute to his predecessor Peter Atterby, he said: “That man has taken it (the company) such a distance since he took over the reins. It is totally unrecognisable.”

Today Luxus is a £25m turnover business operating in global markets and still fulfilling its founder’s pioneering vision for a more sustainable future.


For further information please contact: Sasha Stewart, Straight Talk PR, tel: 07764 346 896 or email:
Luxus Ltd        
UK leading independent technical plastics recycling and compounding company Luxus has been developing highly specified thermoplastics compounds based on prime and recycled feedstocks for 50 years. Luxus is a key supplier to the major names in the global auto industry and it was the first and still is the only UK business to achieve approval for its recycled grades in car interior trims.
Luxus also offers specialist ‘closed loop’ and ‘open loop’ recycling services to manage ‘end of life’ post industrial and consumer waste for the retail transit packaging, construction and local authority wheel bin markets


Published 27 Aug 2015 Back to previous
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