AXION INTERNATIONAL – Recycled Plastics as Building Materials

AXION INTERNATIONAL - Recycled Plastics as Building MaterialsCASE STUDY

Real world stories about innovators and innovative companies are an important way to learn and we place high value on them at Innovation Excellence. We are very pleased to begin a series of case studies on companies who have been curated by Hult International Business School and Center for Innovation, Excellence and Leadership (IXL Center) in their book Greenovate!

 CASE STUDY - AXION INTERNATIONAL - Recycled Plastics as Building MaterialsThe book Greenovate! documents 53 case studies that are defined by “sustainable, green innovations” (or “green ovations”). Each profile combines business innovation with a synthesized concept of sustainability, from startups to leading global organizations. The next case study in this special Greenovate! case study series is:

AXION INTERNATIONAL – Recycled Plastics as Building Materials
Transforming consumer and industrial plastics into eco-friendly construction materials that are strong as steel, longer lasting than wood, lightweight and cost competitive

INNOVATION
Proprietary formula for creating building materials from discarded plastics that are strong and will not rot, rust or corrode. Focus on specific lead customers (e.g., military, railroad ties) that need more cost-effective or better-performing alternatives than existing solutions.

SUSTAINABILITY
Recycled consumer and industrial hard plastics destined for landfills are used to replace traditional construction materials such as wood, concrete and steel

RESULTS
Axion’s construction materials have been used by the US army to build bridges that can support the weight of tanks in excess of 70 tons and require virtually no maintenance

DRIVERS
NOWHERE TO GO:
In 1987, a barge carrying 3,100 tons of garbage was turned away by every landfill site on the US east coast, symbolizing the trash disposal crisis and spurring an increase in recycling activities

TIME AND COST:
The US Army welcomed proposals for alternative solutions when they needed to replace an old wooden bridge in Fort Bragg but were discouraged by time requirements of using concrete or steel materials

REGULATORY PUSH:
The EPA has worked with manufacturers to phase out chemically treated lumber due to environmental and health concerns, prompting the search for a replacement for wood preservatives

BARRIERS
LACK OF STANDARDS:
The absence of performance-based specifications and procurement guidelines contributed to the lack of market adoption for recycled plastic lumber

HEAVY WEIGHTS:
Axion won the Army RFP— while the first bridges they built with the plastic material demonstrated its ability to support cars and trucks, it had not yet proven able to support a 70-ton tank

UNPROVEN TECHNOLOGY:
Currently, only 1%-3% of railroad crossties replaced each year are made from plastic composites because of the uncertainty whether plastic ties fare better than wood ties in long-term testing

ENABLERS
STANDARDS COMMITTEE:
A committee of researchers, engineers and recycled plastic manufacturers worked cooperatively to develop test methods and standards that would guide the use of these materials

INNOVATIVE CONSTRUCTION:
By bolting two T-beams together to form a new I-beam and using more pilings to support the new beams, Axion was able to build a bridge that can withstand heavier loads

TESTING:
The plastic railroad ties produced by Axion were tested by the American Association of Railroads in Colorado to prove that its plastic ties last longer than wooden ties

IMPACT
INTERNAL:
Axion has started receiving orders from major US and Canadian railroad companies for their railroad ties and a contract from the US Army to build more bridges

LONGER LIFECYLE:
The resulting bridge is not only cheaper to construct, but it also costs less to maintain over a long period than wooden bridges that are often weakened by rot and insect damage

NEW MARKETS:
Demand for blended plastics that can withstand high pressure has grown in commercial applications such as decking — this will introduce the product to the residential market

WHAT’S NEXT
New ideas such as combining blended plastics with the I-beam decking system in residential building structures will make the system cost-competitive compared to traditional wood lumber and bio-composites.

image credits:  axioninternational; ixlcenter

Clearworks - Customers, Connections, Clarity

Don’t miss an article (4,700+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!


Tyler McNally, Ronald Jonash & Dr. Hitendra Patel are co-authors of  Greenovate! — Companies Innovating to Create a More Sustainable World and members of the leadership team at IXL CENTER, the Center for Innovation, Excellence & Leadership at Hult International Business School.

This entry was posted in Case Study, Innovation, Product Innovation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Keep Up to Date

  • FeedBurner
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Slideshare
  • Email
  • YouTube
  • IPhone
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Stumble Upon

Innovation Authors - Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson

Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.

“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”