Obituary - Steve Weston BSc MSc CEng MIMMM

24 Sep 2019

Steve Weston BSc MSc CEng MIMMM - 1953‐2019

Steve graduated from UMIST (University of Manchester) with BSc Hons in Polymer Science and Technology (Chemistry) in 1974 and started working as a Production Management Trainee at a Paper Board Mill. Thereafter followed roles as Product Development and Process Development Technologist in construction materials and projects.

Between 1980 and 1985 Steve took on the role of Senior Technical Engineer at Chloride Power Storage, the battery supplier. This was followed by a period between 1985 and 2001 at Volex Powercords, Leigh, Lancashire as Laboratory and Approvals Manager, latterly Test and Certification Manager. During this period, he also chaired a British Standards committee producing a PAS (Publicly Available Specification) for the 13 Amp 3‐pin plug. The beneficial impact of the introduction of that plug and socket system can hardly be exaggerated. Many lives will undoubtedly have been saved because of its enhanced safety attributes.

After leaving Volex, Steve started his own company, COSTdown consultancy, in 2001, applying his technical expertise to focus on the recycling and reuse of polymer waste materials, particularly PVC, at a time when this sector was in its infancy. He had an interest in the company until his death. Steve was very well respected in the recycling / re‐use of polymers and other materials with his pragmatic ‘down to earth’ approach. His thoroughness even included having his company licensed by the Environment Agency as a waste licensing broker and carrier.

In 2002, Steve co‐founded ECOfillers, a company involved in recovery and recycling of polymers and more, especially fillers for them. He left the company in 2011, but it is still trading profitably today. A notable achievement of his time there was the development of a method for converting end of life polyvinyl butyral (the toughening layer in safety glass) into a saleable emulsion product competing with SBR and EVA in carpet backing and other uses.

Steve was a regular delegate at the PVC Brighton conferences and always could be relied on to think up challenging questions to ask the presenters. He was also an excellent supporter of the PVC industry ‐ especially with his ideas and enthusiasm for PVC recycling. Initiatives such as the WRAP funded project on PVC waste at Bradford IRC and the VinylSUM (PVC Sustainability) network would probably not have happened without Steve's involvement and enthusiasm. He was also involved in the project investigating the possibility of setting up a Vinyloop plant (solvent extraction of flexible PVC waste to recover the base material) in the UK.

Steve further assisted many growing SMEs with technical insight and opportunity for the use of recycled polymer within their products, this included the Econpro Group, who have since become a market leader in the supply of recycled polymer kerbstones systems. On their behalf, Steve joined the UK steering Group of EN1433 and with his quiet, technically lead persuasive approach achieved successful inclusion of recycled polymers within this standard, allowing for widespread adoption of these products within highways in the UK and Europe.

Furthermore, Steve guided the senior management team at Econpro in the commissioning of the UK largest post‐consumer carpet recycling facility at Deeside, that today results in the diversion of 30,000 tonnes of this material per annum.

Steve’s passion for - and knowledge of = recycling materials were unmatched. As a result, he also worked on the development of many different products designed to be manufactured using recycled polymer, eg scaffolding board; weed suppression mats; sheet and wood plastic composites etc. In addition, Steve was a representative for RECOfiller ‐ a recycled source of filler suitable for flooring products and for IROXID ‐ a recycled source of brown pigment used in clay ‐concrete and wood plastic composites.

Despite his passion for recycling, he did not always endorse this as the best strategy for dealing with waste materials. In certain cases, he keenly and justifiably supported incineration‐with‐energy recovery as the most ecologically responsible thing to do.

Steve joined the Plastics and Rubber Institute in May 1987 at MPRI level and continued his IOM3 membership becoming a CEng in May 1999. Steve was also involved with the Merseyside and North Wales Polymer Group (M&NWPG) following the merger of the Institute of Metals, PRI and Institute of Ceramics, as a Committee Member. He became chair of the group in 1998 until the group’s eventual demise. Steve was also a member of Manchester Polymer Group (MPG) for many years and with the demise of the M&NWPG, Steve concentrated his efforts serving as a committee member with the MPG bringing his experience to many discussions.

One personal trait that always shone through was his love of family. His pride in his father’s role in fighting the evil that gave rise to the Second World War was so evident. So was the joy in seeing his daughter win the title of best shot in an evening at a shooting club, against stiff competition. Always enthusiastic and a great person with whom to work, Steve will be sadly missed and our condolences go out to his wife, Pauline and daughter, Becky.

Prepared by Stuart Patrick with input from many of Steve’s colleagues