Plastecowood offers a smart solution for dealing with some of the UK’s plastics waste that is no longer being received by China. Its Smartawood product is a cost-effective plastic replacement for timber that can be used for walkways, fencing, park furniture and bollards.
It is made of 100% recovered plastics including HDPE, LDPE, PET, PP and some film; even plastics that are contaminated with paper or metal and would otherwise go to energy-from-waste plants.
Plastecowood, based in Bodelwyddan, Wales, has been trading for three years. It says it has the capacity to scale up immediately and increase production by 50% at its current plant and to add another plant as well.
It has been successful in supplying Smartawood products to nature organisations including RSPB reserves such as RSPB Titchfield Haven, wildlife trusts such as the Essex Wildlife Trust and local authorities including Colchester, Mansfield, Gwynned, and Lancaster.
The firm has closed loop arrangements with customers including cosmetics companies, industrial and distribution businesses, which involves the client providing the raw plastic waste and buying it back as ‘lumber’ at a special rate.
How is this product design ‘smart’ in terms of reuse, recyclability and recycled content?
The smart aspect of the product, apart from the recycling content, is that it will last for a lifetime, requiring no re-installation, no painting or preservatives. So Smartawood offers dramatically reduced whole life costs when compared with timber [about a third of the price, according to WRAP].
What is it made of?
We use 100% waste plastic, mainly but not exclusively sourced from MRFs processing post-consumer waste. We are able, uniquely, to process materials that are not homogeneous and can carry a fraction of contamination, including paper and some traces of metal. We are therefore able to receive exactly the kind of waste that is usually sent for incineration or exported to China.
How is it different from what is out there already? What makes it unique?
The input material renders our product more rigid than similar products on the market and therefore it can be deployed in a wide variety of applications. And because of the lack of market demand for the kind of waste we reprocess and recycle, our product can be significantly more economical than similar ones.
Can Smartawood currently be recycled in the UK or, if not, how do you hope this will be solved?
We accept back Smartawood and reprocess it.
What are the environmental benefits of your product compared with what is currently used most of the time?
It is made 100% from a product that would otherwise be destined for landfill or incineration. For every tonne of Plastecowood manufactured, 700kg of carbon is diverted from landfill. We use only UK waste so there is a limited carbon footprint, and no transportation carbon footprint like that associated with imported timber.
No preservatives or paints are ever required, and there is no risk of harmful leaching into soil or water. There are none of the provenance issues associated with timber procurement such as deforestation.
Paul Segal is the commercial director of Plastecowood