Like the industry's pioneers, the founders of Hamilton, Mont.-based Bitterroot Composite Lumber Co. Inc. believe they can turn a recycling venture into a viable extrusion business.
But instead of searching for a use for discarded industrial packaging, grocery bags and milk jugs, Bitterroot officials simply point to their pristine surroundings as motivation.
Nestled in the Bitterroot Valley, amidst a plethora of mountains and national forests in western Montana, company founders Corrine Gantt and John Schneeberger are about saving trees.
``We feel strongly that this is a good use for the small-diameter timber,'' Schneeberger said in a March 14 telephone interview. ``It can be used to relieve pressure on larger forest trees, which are needed for other ecological reasons.''
While the creation of a green building product is the focus, Bitterroot officials have not lost sight of the need to create a quality deck board. They are the latest in a growing stable of Strandex Corp. licensees. The Madison, Wis.-based company also licenses its extrusion technology to the likes of Composatron Manufacturing Inc., Universal Forest Products Inc., and Louisiana-Pacific Corp.
Bitterroot will make its boards of recycled polyethylene, plus wood fiber from felled trees in the surrounding national forests.
``We're looking to utilize biomass,'' Schneeberger said. ``There's an issue of variability of small-diameter timber as having a higher percentage of bark and needles - not your optimal kiln-dried sawdust. But there are lots of people interested in biomass. We feel it's a responsible use of this material.''
Bitterroot officials, who are planning to market their products under the Montanadex brand name, are trying to close a deal on a 30,000-square-foot former lumber mill in nearby Darby. They plan to start with three extrusion lines, grow, and have a plant running by the end of 2007.
For now, he and Gantt are going to take it slowly
``I would like to emphasize that we're just a bunch of people who don't know what we're doing,'' Schneeberger quipped. ``We're all about making a green product.''