Trex Co. LLC is launching a program to collect and recycle post-industrial stretch film to boost supplies of polyethylene for the manufacture of its recycled Wood-Polymer lumber. The company, based in Winchester, Va., will buy PE film from makers of stretch film and haul it away on a regular basis.
One of Trex's biggest challenges is getting enough PE film to mix with wood fiber to meet demand for the lumber, said Ralph Bruno, the firm's national sales manager. A steady supply of material is crucial to recycling firms, and Trex has relied mainly on post-consumer grocery sacks.
``For our business to grow as rapidly to meet demand, we need to increase the percentages of grocery sacks coming from our suppliers,'' said Bruno. ``We're consuming such a volume of polyethylene films now that we need to increase our supply sources.''
The company implemented its ``Bring Back the Sack'' consumer campaign to encourage recycling of grocery sacks. Even the company's print ads in consumer magazines remind people to recycle grocery sacks.
Still, only 4 percent of all grocery bags are returned to stores for recycling, said Maureen Murray, a Trex spokeswoman. That is why the new effort geared toward post-industrial PE is important.
``We're trying to increase the volume of polyethylene in our supply line and keep it flowing,'' Murray said.
The wood fiber that is mixed with PE in Trex's proprietary process comes from Virginia-area cabinet and furniture makers.
Trex had been a unit of Mobil Chemical Co., until division managers recently bought the firm.
``Ecology doesn't play as big a part as we would like in the sales of our product,'' Bruno said. ``Municipalities requiring recycled content in certain products might buy for that reason, but consumers buy our product for selfish reasons - the fact that [Trex] is splinter-free, low-maintenance and durable.''
Trex is available through a national network of more than 1,000 lumber supply distributors. The company has five extrusion production lines.
Trex Wood-Polymer lumber is comparable in cost to upper grades of other decking lumber.
``We're very competitive with redwood on the West Coast and higher end cedar in the East, and we're slightly more expensive than pressure-treated southern yellow pine,'' Bruno said.