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Death of plastics recycling pioneer

Ron Tonn, the founder of Lincolnshire compounder and recycler Luxus, has died at the age of 83, in the year his company celebrated its 50th birthday.

Tonn was born in Chicago and began trading in polymers for US-based Muehlstein before being sent to the UK to help manage the company’s European arm at the age of 25.

He set up his own business, Luxus, in January 1965. The name came from his German grandmother, who had described him as her ‘luxus kind’ – ‘luxury’s child’ in English.

Luxus was also a preferred brand name adopted by German manufacturers to suggest luxury, such as the Opal Luxus.

Peter Laking, engineering and project manager at Luxus, recalls: “We always had the upmost respect for Ron. He was never afraid to get his hands dirty.

“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.”

Tonn described coming to the UK as his true ‘rebirth’, since it marked for him a fundamental shift from simply trading plastics in America. Luxus was instead about recovering existing waste plastics by re-engineering material that would otherwise be destined for landfill.

Tonn managed the Louth business successfully despite the subsequent 1980s recession before retiring in 1997.

Peter Atterby, managing director, described 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.”

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