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A new path for plastics

For David Townend, Applied Technologies all began as a favour to a friend who, living on the south coast, found that her wooden gates were rotting at an alarming rate. After some serious research, Townend designed a gate made from recycled HDPE and built prototypes for his friend's house. That was in 1998 and the prototypes, as well as the business, are still going strong.
"This is a business I just fell into," says Townend. "We were so impressed with the initial results we decided to set up a company to market the gates. For two or three years this became something I worked on in the garage for people almost as a hobby as I didn't have the time to devote to it."
However, he soon made the time to devote to it, selling his old business to make Applied Technologies his priority. "Distributors were not initially interested as they said there was no demand so we had to go direct to the end users who our market research indicated had been trying to find a product like ours for years," he continues. "Now that the products are more well known, we are getting potential distributors approaching us to become outlets for our products."
Based in Shifnal, Shropshire, Applied Technologies produce landscape and estate products, including fencing, gates, boardwalks and planters, and industrial products such as roof walkways, storage/picking units for heavy castings and dunnage beams. The plastic comes predominantly from milk bottles and is recycled by Centriforce Products in Liverpool.
There are approximately 1,500 bottles to a gate and last year the company used 60 tonnes of plastic and, if they hit their plan this year, Applied Technologies should be selling about 240 tonnes of recycled product and expect to be using 500 tonnes within two years. The company has had to move premises three times and will need to move again when the 500 tonne mark is reached.
Although this is an area where wood is usually the main product, 'wood replacement' is not the main thrust of the company's marketing. Townend says that the company has focused on promoting the products' unique selling points, which are that they don't rot and will not need painting. And, of course, a major bonus is that they are recycled.
One problem that the company has experienced is that at exhibitions people do just think the products are made of wood and walk past them. "People also still tend to think of the products as being expensive, but are comparing unpainted wood with fully-finished plastic items," says Townend.
The recycled material used is tough, durable and does not splinter. Townend laughs when he remembers that in the early days they used to test the gates by throwing bags of cement on them from a first floor window - highly sophisticated. Also, as the plastic does not rot or need painting, it can be used in wet environments.
At the moment, Applied Technologies is selling approximately 720 gates a year, 50 metres of fencing a month and last year sold 250 metres of boardwalk and 50 planters and, needless to say, there are great plans for increasing sales in all of these lines and also in the roof walkways and dunnages. Townend is particularly proud of the dunnage beams, which have been tested by Lloyds British and can carry full stack loads of 25 tonnes.
Creating these products has meant that significant technical developments have also been made. The production process required considerable development and the company now has a number of unique machines for producing their products. Applied Technologies is currently working to ove

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