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Building Green on the Outside

By Charlie Blore

A growing number of exterior building supplies are
being made with post-consumer recycled plastics

The first thing you notice is the smell: It doesn’t really smell like anything. No smell of garbage, cleansers or melting plastics. This is probably because every window in DMX Plastics’ massive Scarborough factory is open at the moment. When you recycle plastic, proper ventilation is a necessity. And few companies around the construction business recycle plastic quite like DMX does.
In one corner of the factory sits a mountain of plastic bottles. Along the opposite wall are the machines that clean, cut and melt the plastic into pellets. Finally, by the near wall, those pellets are transformed into a resin and run through dies to mold them into either corrugated pipe or foundation wrap. It’s a three-step process that makes this an environmentally friendly and completely vertically integrated operation.
Literally, post-consumer waste comes in one door, and ready-to-install building supplies go out the other.
“Every plastics company since people started making plastics has used their own plant scrap. That’s not using recycled resin.” says Steve Sennik, president of DMX Plastics. “Our recycled feedstock comes from the Blue Box (Ontario Recycling Program). We recycle 25,000 milk jugs an hour. If you really want to be green, you have to be doing something that takes plastics out of the waste stream.”

Quality: the Key to Success
It’s all well and good to recycle, but if the product is sub-standard, what good is it? For the longest time that’s been the knock on products made from recycled materials, particularly plastics. Virgin resin has traditionally bested its recycled counterpart in a variety of ways. This isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
According to a recent Ciba test, DMX Flexsheets have held their own, if not outperformed, their competition in some key categories such as resistance to hydrostatic loads, tearing and aging. Flexsheets are made with at least 50 per cent recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastics — the kind used to make milk jugs and soda bottles.
“The big problem that we were finding in the market is that these dimple sheets rip and tear like crazy,” Sennik says. “So our product is 25 per cent heavier than our competitors’. One of the things people kept asking me was, ‘OK, I’ve seen this product; how is yours different?’ All I had to do was put it in their hand and tell them to feel it, and they would see [the difference].”
Though they’ve only been generating a finished product with it for a few years, DMX has been recycling plastics for 16 years. The key difference Sennik sees between his product and recycled plastics of the past is in the composition, particularly as it concerns anti-oxidants.
“Anti-oxidants can really regenerate the quality and life span of plastics to a much greater degree than what used to be possible 10 or 15 years ago,” says Sennik. “When we put anti-oxidants into our sheets and pipes, we’re protecting them against degradation; we’re improving the physical properties. That’s what allows the recycled component of our product to perform at the high level that it does.”

On Deck: Recycled Plastic

Recycled HDPE plastics lend themselves particularly well to exterior products. Beyond foundation wrap, they are also popular as a component of wood composites.
Master Mark Plastics has been a plastic recycler since 1966, now recycling over a billion plastic containers per year. The Minnesota-based company  even managed to garner themselves a United Nations Environmental Programme Award, which is given to organizations for their significant efforts to use recycled material.
Master Mark would eventually capitalize on the potential for expanding into construction supplies, and in 1996, introduced what is now their best selling product: Rhino Deck composite decking.
“The wood is an oak and maple blend that we get from a cabinet making shop, so it’s all made from post-manufactured, post-consumer materials,” notes Master Mark marketing representative, Anna Anzeck.
Advantages of the product are its look, along with its ease of installation and maintenance.
“The colours we use and the wood grain that’s on it, give it a very natural look, where some other composites that, say use more plastic, might not look as natural outside in the sunlight,” says Anzeck.
Made of equal parts recycled plastic and recycled sawdust, the planks enjoy all the usual advantages of a composite deck including mold and stain resistance. Installation, meanwhile, requires simply pre-drilling holes and screwing or clipping the boards onto the joist, depending on the boards chosen.
It’s not easy being green? Well with products like these, it’s certainly getting to be — at least on the outside.

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