Eco-Living Magazine

Axion: Turning Bottles into Bridges

Posted on the 02 May 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Axion: Turning Bottles into BridgesUsing a technique developed at Rutgers Universtity, Axion International from New Providence, N.J. is building small bridges from recycled plastic bottles. Aside from reusing the bottles, the company says the I-beams, rail ties, and other structural building products it makes are rust and corrosion proof, cost competitive, and won’t become food for termites. Take their rail ties, for example. The ECOTRAX™ Composite Railroad Ties “resist plate wear, hold spikes, and maintain gauge – after more than ten years at the TTCI HTL test track, accumulating over 1,800 MGT of 39-ton axle loads.”

The company describes itself as “a green technology firm that manufactures, markets and sells composite rail ties and structural building products such as boards, pilings, I-beams, and T-beams. Using patented technology, our products are made from 100% post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastics and industrial scrap.”

The process for producing these beams is described by Fortune in 5 steps:

1. Bales of No. 2 plastic (detergent bottles, milk jugs, and the like) and industrial-grade plastics (scrapped car bumpers) arrive at the Axion plant for processing.

2. The plastics are put through a heavy-duty shredder and turned into snowflakes. Axion says each pound of an I-beam uses the equivalent of eight plastic bottles.

3. The flakes are combined with fiberglass and fed into a manifold, where the mix is heated but not melted — and readied for molding into I-beams.

4. The softened polymer is extruded — or forced into molds of different sizes based on the specifications of the project — pressed into shape, and then cooled.

5.  The beams are assembled into lightweight but strong bridges. How sturdy? An Axion structure at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg supports tanks weighing 60 tons.

With thousands of small bridges around the country aging and in need of repair and railroads in need of new ties, there may be a large market for Axion’s products. Though it is not clear how energy intensive the process is for producing the beams, the business is a great example of reusing existing items instead of propagating the throw away society to which we’ve unfortunately become accustomed. Each mile of ECOTRAX™ ties that is laid keeps tons of plastic bottles from going into landfills while providing a cost effective and durable alternative to traditional products.


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