How POLYWOOD turns plastic waste into outdoor furniture
As the global demand for wood continues to soar, it’s time to think seriously about using alternatives to wood. So why not plastic?
In the last episode of Popular mechanics series”MADE HEREwe visit the factory of POLYWOOD, a company that recovers recycled plastic (mainly milk jugs), transforms it into “lumber” and uses it to make outdoor furniture.
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“Recycled plastic is important because the nature of the materials can be used endlessly,” says Doug Rassi, Founder and CEO of POLYWOOD. “You can remake them and remake them, and you’ll never have to throw those materials away.”
POLYWOOD sources its materials from U.S. recycling centers and “ocean homes around the world,” says Bryce Glock, retail sales manager at POLYWOOD. Then the work begins.
First, the machines process, clean, crumble and pelletize the plastic bales. Then vacuums move the pellets into storage silos until they are ready to be mixed with additional materials before becoming POLYWOOD wood panels. Before workers can cut the boards, however, they must color them with stain and shape them (in a heater) to match the size required for specific pieces of furniture.
Then the boards move through cooling tanks, and finally a CNC machine cuts them. For the last step, POLYWOOD employees pack the parts and prepare them for shipment.
Rassi hopes POLYWOOD’s products show that plastics can always find new life and don’t need to end up in landfills or the sea.
“Plastics [have] this disposable connotation for them,” says Rassi. “It’s very ingrained in our culture, and we’re working hard to change that.”
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