A company in Minnesota may have just developed plastic lumber that, for the first time, has surpassed wood lumber in strength and perhaps durability.
A plastic substitute equal to the strength of wood lumber has been a holy grail for plastics researchers and manufacturers for quite some time, reports Finance & Commerce. But the founder, Paul Schmitt, of the Rochester, Minn.-based company, Envirolastech Inc., says the plastic not only outperforms wood in strength, but also does not rot or split, problems that sometimes occur with traditional wood lumber. The company’s plastic also resists fading, which is common to other types of plastic lumber, Schmitt says.
The company has tested the plastic lumber and found that cold temperatures do not make it brittle, which is a common problem with plastics. In fact, just the opposite happens; the proprietary formula used in the plastic makes the plastic stronger in colder temperatures. Envirolastech officials say that these claims have been tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials, making the composite material the first certified by an engineering body verifying the plastic’s weight-bearing capability.
Consumers often expect green products to cost more than traditional products, and they think that small companies cannot be competitive with the bigger players. But a judge for the 2012 Minnesota Cup — an entrepreneurial competition focusing on new, innovative businesses — says those two expectations are not true with Envirolastech. “They have a superior product with a very compelling price point,” says the judge, Todd Taylor.
The company has built more than 30 different products, but it wants to concentrate on the siding market. It claims that its product has nearly twice the impact strength of its closest competitor, but costs about 20% less.
A reason why the company may have a price advantage is that its raw materials come from landfills. Its manufacturing formulas enable it to use higher amounts of mineral filters, such as fly ash and gypsum, thus lowering production costs.
Schmidt spent eight years with the help of hired researchers to find the possibilities of combining various types of recycled products. Overall, the team looked at more than 700 different formulas before discovering one that achieved a molecular bonding necessary to meet the company’s strengths and other requirements.
Source: “Envirolastech’s ‘plastic lumber’ passes strength test,” Finanance & Commerce, 10/16/12
Image by Jaksmata.