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Thinking outside the box

In March 2011, technical plastics recycler and compounder Luxus was approached by injection moulder Rutland Plastics.

The aim was to engineer a recycled-grade polymer for the manufacture of a residential below-ground boundary box to house water meters manufactured by its client, Atlantic Plastics, part of the Talis Group.

These had previously been made using virgin material, but Atlantic was looking for something that was more environmentally sustainable as well as giving cost benefits.

This resulted in the development of two innovative and cost competitive recycled polypropylene (PP) grades that were used to provide a sustainable, robust and lightweight solution for the Matrix telescopic boundary box product. The recycled material used is mainly UK post-consumer waste.

The first recycled grade to be created was for the boundary box material. The technical specification was agreed by Rutland Plastics with Atlantic’s purchasing team. Technicians at Luxus’s technical centre in Lincolnshire developed a sustainable polymer for the beige composite housing that would need to satisfy colour, strength and stringent load regulations. Beige was specified as the colour so that light would be reflected off the unit, which would make it easier to take readings.

The material validation process took eight months to complete, and led to the supply of the new recycled grade to Rutland Plastics for the first 12 months and then later direct to Atlantic Plastics because it wanted to bring some of its moulding production in-house.

From Atlantic’s perspective, it required a recycled material that would enable the end product to be more ‘eco’ as well as robust, reliable and able to reduce its client’s logistical and operational costs.

Following the success of the initial recycled PP grade, Luxus was approached to find another materials solution for the surface box on the same product.

It wanted a recycled PP grade that included glass content to replace its virgin grade. Used for making round lid assemblies, the polymer had to meet strict dimensional requirements and withstand heavy loads. It also needed to be tamper-proof and required additional tensile properties to enable the material to withstand impact without distortion.

Luxus adapted an existing recycled grade that had been used in the automotive industry for many years, but needed the addition of UV stabilisers, which slow degradation of the material to make it suitable for the meter housing assembly. The result is a low weight product with high stability that is also resistant to corrosion. 

Testing was done initially in-house at Luxus, with the final static load tests undertaken by Atlantic Plastics before trial production began. The final component was required to withstand half-tonne direct loads, and it surpassed current regulations by withstanding direct loads of more than two tonnes.

The recycled grades have helped Atlantic to achieve both cost savings and sustainability credentials. Luxus has now been asked to research new sustainable grades for further products in Atlantic’s product range for global water industry needs.

James Ballantyne is sales manager at Luxus


View from the manufacturer

Wynne Elms, purchasing manager for Atlantic Plastics, said:

“Our water meter boxes have reliability engineered in. We test our boundary boxes using a strict procedure, which is why it has taken eight months to produce each new grade fit for our production process.

“We are pleased with the new recycled grades because they have enabled us to achieve a high-quality boundary box with the right sustainability credentials and at a competitive price.

“But, most importantly, Luxus has been able to offer the continuity in volume that we require, even with a recycled grade. Recent growth in the European market for water meters has meant that our demand has increased significantly from seven tonnes to 15 tonnes a week.”

Environmental sustainability

A closer look at the boundary box

The boundary box is a self-contained telescopic plastic chamber system that uses sliding parts, designed to provide a safe and clean environment for concentric meters.

Its moulded chamber can be installed for new builds and also retrospectively, and it prevents ground water leaks getting through its two-piece design. It is available in sealed or unsealed versions and can be read or shut off if required via the surface box lid.

It is tested to water industry standard specifications.

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