Recycler challenges Zuckerman opinion It was exceptionally disappointing to see Arie Zuckerman's Perspective [``Technology or shot in the dark?'' Dec. 5, Page 14] describing the supposed lack of technology utilized by plastic lumber manufacturers.
It is difficult to determine what ax is meant to be ground by this article, but it is easy to see that the author has a great lack of understanding about the subject matter. Unfortunately, the publication of an article such as this will create more misinformation about the plastic lumber industry and likely lead to further misconceptions about the capabilities of some viable entities.
No doubt that Mr. Zuckerman is correct in his characterization of a few plastic lumber manufacturers. Several such businesses have been established on the premise that if the company diverted plastic waste from the landfill-regardless of the quality or consistency of the output-consumers would beat a path to its door. Those businesses were created on shaky assumptions and unrealistic business cases; the outcomes for these entities should have been predictable.
But there are a number of recycling firms manufacturing profile extrusions and dimensional lumber products by reasonable scientific methods. These firms use specific fractions of the waste stream as raw materials and employ compounding technology common to many advanced processing plants.
They have also created or modified manufacturing practices, based on solid engineering techniques, in which the processes can produce high-quality parts to specification.
In Eaglebrook's case, we have pioneered the development of several technologies that are in use in the plastics recycling industry, some of which are utilized in manufacturing high quality plastic lumber. We developed post-consumer HDPE purification processes, partnered the development of an automated sortation system, and have been an industry leader in creating applications for post-consumer HDPE. In our ``lumber'' manufacturing business, we also employ a comprehensive quality-control program based on the ISO 9002 model, and recently received the highest quality award for a supplier from an auto company.
We object strongly to rash and general characterizations of any industry niche that has some successful, emerging enterprises. The fundamentals of applying expertise, scientific practices, and the appropriate technology are the same for serious recycling businesses as for businesses using virgin feedstocks.
Certainly Plastics News readers understand that this is the case, and do not require more views from the reality-impaired.
Robert E. Thompson III
Eaglebrook Plastics Inc.
'Embryonic' industry develiping quickly
Arie Zukerman's comments on the plastic lumber industry might have been valid five or six years ago. He will be pleased to know that now there is a great deal of ``scientific method'' and strategic effort in the plastic lumber industry, considering that it is an embryonic industry - less than a decade old.
Several manufacturers have made good use of ``scientific methods'' to develop hollow, co-extruded, foamed and fiber-reinforced plastic profiles. Most of the companies have joined together in a plastic lumber trade association that is laying the groundwork for stabilizing and growing the industry by focusing on their common goals.
The Center for Plastic Recycling Research at Rutgers University has been working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratories in a multiyear research project to develop plastic lumber for construction applications. A major effort in this program is the development of ASTM procedures. The Plastic Lumber Trade Association and some of its members are very active in this effort that will eventually lead to a performance grading system similar to that for other construction material.
I am confident that the expected growth of this industry will be spurred by the construction industry's demands for a more reliable and better-performing plastic lumber product, and the industry will meet it through new applications of the ``scientific method.''
For more information, I can be reached at (908) 445-3679.
New Brunswick, N.J.
Plastic undervalued for too many years
As a person with 47-plus years in the business, I want to comment on Clare Goldsberry's Dec. 12 Perspective [``Apocalyptic times for processors,'' Page 12].
It is not accurate to compare this year's dramatic resin price increases with the oil embargo ``shortage'' of 1974, when President Nixon had imposed strict price controls. The companies that made money then were the ones that sold their price-controlled resin to overseas brokers-or domestic black marketeers. It's different this time-in a free market.
The basic raw material and polymer producers appear to be making a return that will allow them to justify further expansions-expansions that are needed. But what really impresses me the most is the acceptance of higher prices downstream in the marketplace. That is a strong statement to the effect that we have for too long underestimated the value of end uses.
Harold A. Holz
Marval Industries Inc.