With interest I read and analyzed the Dec. 5 Perspective by Arie Zukerman on the plastic lumber industry. While I could pointedly agree or disagree on the specific points and comments he offers, I think it would be better to give an overview of the Plastic Lumber Trade Association, which was initiated to address the recognized problems and find solutions for Mr. Zukerman's concerns. PLTA began its formation process in July 1993 and was officially chartered July 1994 as a nonprofit trade association with 501c6 status. Membership stands at 76 members with 24 companies holding manufacturer status. The balance of the membership is composed of researchers, marketers, design engineers, material and equipment suppliers, students, wannabes and wood industry observers.
The chartered goals of PLTA are to promote the use of recycled plastics; to establish standardized testing procedures; promote standards of quality within the industry; to inaugurate cooperative projects that contribute to a firm, equitable, and businesslike basis and are consistent with the best interest of the plastic industry; to promote the acceptance and use of plastic lumber and its products; to work cooperatively with other groups and government agencies on matters of material interest; and to collect industry statistics.
A close working relationship has been established with the ASTM D20.20.01 committee (formerly D20.95.03) on manufactured recycled plastic lumber and shapes. Three task groups have been formed: test methods, performance/specifications and definitions. Through intellectual (read aggressive) debate, many problems have been distilled down to just a few remaining obstacles. Scientific methodology is applied to provide acceptable test methods where existing plastic or wood tests are inappropriate or nonexistent.
From these new test methods will come performance specifications, grades, quality-control standards, design protocol, allowable design tolerances and other technical data that the ultimate buyer and design engineer need to work with this material properly.
I am quite pleased that not only have entrepreneurs been working hard to understand these issues, but government is beginning to recognize that it too has a vested interest - not only from a solid waste and recycling agenda, but also as an ultimate buyer of the end product.
Knowing that there is a sense of urgency, it is very satisfying to see that state governments such as Ohio and Washington; universities such as Rutgers, Penn State, Massachusetts-Lowell, Louisiana State, Dayton and Toronto; along with federal entities such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency; and research labs such as Battelle are providing bright minds to help speed the intellectual process.
I am urging and challenging any and all public and private entities to come to the table and help us as we work to develop the proper solutions. Our next meeting will be held March 16-17 in Denver. Contact Patricia Smith at (216) 762-1963 for membership and meeting information.
Speaking for myself and many of the entrepreneurs who are involved with this industry, we are quite pleased that the major players in the plastics industry have decided to advertise instead of capitalize and technologists have decided to editorialize. Certainly, the plastic lumber industry has its share of cynics, naysayers and opponents. But, I don't feel it is any more or any less than any other plastic product that has had to claw its way into marketplace acceptance.
You know what happens to the opposition? Technology takes over to prove them wrong.
Robbins is president of Plastic Lumber Co. and PLTA, both in Akron, Ohio.