When it gets hot in Barbados, there's nothing like a cold drink. However, when that soda comes in a PET bottle, what can you do with the empty?
How about recycling it, adding coral dust and turning it into a roofing system? That's what Duraplast Inc. in Newton Christ Church, Barbados, started doing four years ago. Now the company sells the shingles and related products around the Caribbean.
``As is the case of most Caribbean islands there is a problem with plastic and paper [trash] - you name it,'' said Richard Cozier, managing director of Banks Holding Ltd., the parent of Duraplast.
He said that the island culture is to recycle. There is a 10 cent deposit on each bottle, and Cozier estimated that more than 80 percent of PET and glass bottles are returned.
Cozier said the development of the shingle had been challenging, but it is gaining acceptance. He said the hard part was selling the first few, because buyers wanted to see it perform before buying it.
The shingles are injection molded at a 7,500-square-foot facility in Barbados.
He said the shingles have stood up to the difficult conditions on the eastern side of the island, the resort area where homes face a salt blast. The typical roof on the island is tin or asphalt, and both have a hard time standing up to the salt spray.
``We're pleased that the product is sustainable,'' he said. ``It is appropriate for roofs in the Caribbean. It makes a home cooler. It is a bad conductor of heat, so on the hottest day, you can walk barefoot on the roof.''
The shingle idea got its start back in 1998 when Terry Minnick, who runs a consulting business - Molding Business Services of Florence, Mass. - attended an island cocktail party while on vacation and met Allan Fields, the Banks Holding chairman.
When he got home, Minnick contacted John Vanderhoef, the owner of Vanderhoef Design Inc. in Hyannis, Mass.
``I've worked with plastic all my life, but you can take everything that you know when you deal with recycled and throw it out the window,'' said Vanderhoef, noting that recycled plastics are not as predictable as virgin plastics. He said it took many months of work with Bob Malloy, a plastics engineering professor from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, to test the material and come up with the right tooling.
Now the firm offers a roofing system that includes all the items necessary, like flashing, hardware, caulking and adhesives. The system is priced as a midrange alternative for roofers. Minnick said it costs about twice as much as a metal or asphalt roof. However, it is cheaper and lighter and easier to install than a high-end clay roof. It also has a 25-year limited warranty, and the developers expect it to last twice as long as cheaper alternatives.