Cougle's Recycling Inc. recently started a plastic lumber operation with the purchase of a $1 million machine. The Hamburg, Pa., company can use a variety of plastic materials in the lumber, which owner Robert Cougle said is 100 percent plastic, with no additives.
``We weigh each material, like high density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene, then blend it to keep the ingredients the same each time,'' he said. ``For different strengths we'll change the recipe so we can make the product we want.''
Cougle's has been in business for 52 years and employs 50. Though the firm accepted plastic along with other materials, it only sold PET and HDPE and threw away the rest. And Cougle's did not want to do more with plastic; it wanted to get away from it.
``When we realized we were throwing away as much as we were recycling, we were kind of pushed into it,'' Cougle added. ``There's not much of a market for [plastic recycling code numbers] three through seven.''
After the company bought the machine, it spent several months testing various combinations of plastics. And with the help of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., more testing is being done on how the lumber reacts to sunlight, weight and pressure.
The applications are endless, Cougle said. The plastic lumber has been used in decking, picnic tables, benches and landscaping. Using only clean plastic, the machine has a capacity of 600-700 pounds an hour. With more profiles and more interest, Cougle soon expects to stock any product a customer wants.
``When this takes off, plastic lumber will be the product of the future, replacing pressure-treated lumber,'' Cougle added.