Winchester, Va.-based Trex Co. Inc. is widening its reach for used plastic film to cities, businesses, universities and organizations as part of its NexTrex Grassroots Movement to source more scrap for its composite decking.
Extruded from industrial wood sawdust and recycled polyethylene plastic film such as shopping bags, cereal box liners and bubble wrap, Trex decking is made up of 95 percent recycled content.
Trex says it upcycles about 400 million pounds of plastic waste annually, nearly all of which comes from post-consumer sources like newspaper sleeves, product overwrap, shrink wrap and stretch film used to palletize boxes.
A large portion of the recyclable PE comes from some 32,000 retailers and material recovery facilities (MRFs) that have warehouses or front-of-house collections to meet Trex's volume requirements for full trailer loads.
Now Trex is reaching out to other qualifying businesses and nonprofit groups to serve as drop-off sites for PE film while earning funds for their organizations.
At the same time, some commercial recyclers face hurdles finding end markets for post-consumer PE, or meeting quality and volume requirements of prospective buyers. They say retail collection bins often are contaminated by people tossing garbage in them and have no resale value. Some recycling watchdogs are even calling store PE recycling programs a charade.
At Trex, the goal of the grassroots program is to form alternative partnerships and engage a new and broader audience in recycling, according to Stephanie Hicks, Trex material account manager.
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"The intent of the NexTrex Grassroots Movement is to develop recycling programs outside of normal channels with counties, cities, municipalities, universities and other organizations that are interested in promoting plastic bag recycling to local residents," Hicks said in an email. "Grocery and retail store drop-off sites are great for their customers to recycle small amounts of household plastics. NexTrex Grassroots provides access for bulk drop-offs and recycling of larger quantities, including for small [and] medium-size businesses that may not otherwise have a plastic film recycling outlet."
With annual sales of $1.1 billion, Trex ranks No. 6 among North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.
A slowdown in Trex sales, however, is expected in the second half of the year. The company's outlook for the third quarter shows sales of $185 million to $195 million, compared with $336 million for the third quarter in 2021. For the fourth quarter, sales of $180 million to $190 million are expected, compared with $304 million in the same period last year.
On Aug. 9, Trex CEO Bryan Fairbanks told investors: "Although we believe consumer demand for Trex decking and railing products remains healthy, in late June, we experienced a sudden reduction in pro-channel demand, as our partners began to adjust their inventory levels to align with expectations for an economic slowdown."
In response, Trex officials anticipate a "significant" reduction in sales as consumer demand is filled by existing channel inventories.
Despite the expected decline in business conditions, Trex is expanding its plastic waste collection to provide more community outlets. For example, Hicks said grocery and retail stores typically can't accept the amount of plastic film generated by large universities.
NexTrex Grassroots provides an opportunity for universities to work directly with Trex commercially to recycle the plastic film generated on their campuses.