Trex Company Enters Commercial Plastics Market
September 10, 2015
Even companies that use recycled materials have materials to recycle at the end of the day. Trex Company, manufacturer of high-performance, wood-alternative decking and railing, has found a viable way to close the recycling loop by using its excess raw material to produce linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) pellets. Ideal for use in a variety of manufacturing applications, these pellets represent an entirely new business for the Winchester, Va.-based company.
“As they say, necessity is the mother of invention,” explained Jim Cline, president and CEO of Trex Company. “As one of the country’s largest recyclers of post-consumer and commercial polyethylene, we found ourselves with a surplus of material beyond what we could use in our core line of outdoor living products. We challenged our engineering team to come up with ways to use the excess material and, as usual, they didn’t disappoint. In fact, what they developed has created a whole new business venture for us that not only benefits Trex, but other manufacturers and the environment, as well.”
Leveraging its best-in-class recycling and extrusion capabilities – and using equipment downtime to experiment with and test different solutions – the Trex engineering team ultimately delivered a linear low density polyethylene plastic pellet ideal for use in a variety of products and industries.
“We envision numerous applications for our recycled pellets,” explained Dave Heglas, senior director of material resources at Trex. “They are ideal for use in the production of bags, including trash bags, as well as molded products such as bins, totes and even kayaks. We also see tremendous potential for these pellets in the manufacturing of both rigid and flexible tubing, such as agricultural drip tape.”
Preparation Meets Opportunity
Heglas, a chemical engineer with a background in rocket science and missile design, joined Trex in 1996 as an engineer responsible for the raw materials and plastic processing side of the business. After a few years working with recycled materials, he saw opportunities and potential value in using and repurposing recycled plastic. In 2004, Heglas formalized the company’s recycling operations, an initiative which has evolved into a company within the company.
“Turning Trex from a company using recycled plastic into a plastic recycler was something that made perfect strategic sense,” explained Heglas. “We were collecting way more than we needed or could ever use in our deck boards, so we began selling off some of our inventory to manufacturers in other industries.”
Among those manufacturers were small companies that Trex contracted to produce plastic pellets. Over time, it occurred to Heglas that Trex could be fabricating pellets in-house rather than outsourcing to third parties. After nearly a decade of experience producing pellets for Trex internal use, the next logical progression was to leverage the in-house expertise and expand capabilities to produce pellets for additional industries and markets.
“We quickly realized that we were the only company capable of producing LLDPE pellets in high volumes and with greater consistency,” noted Heglas. “Previously, manufacturers had to rely on multiple sources for plastic pellets which meant unpredictable quantities and widely-varying product characteristics. With our extensive supply and equipment capacity, Trex is able to deliver the quantities and quality manufacturers’ need at a lower price and with the added convenience of a single-source provider.”
Currently, Trex has four lines dedicated to recycled pellet production, making it one of the largest producers of recycled LLDPE pellets in the country. The company has plans to add several more lines in the future.
Sustainability, Flexibility and the Future
Adding to the appeal of Trex’s LLDPE pellets is the fact that, like all Trex products, they are made from recycled materials. Designed to partially displace virgin and off-spec resin, they allow manufacturers to lower their material costs and promote a more eco-friendly option to customers.
“Trex was literally built on sustainable principles and these continue to be at the heart of everything we do,” noted Heglas. “With this new business, we are looking to partner with manufacturers that recognize the many benefits of using recycled materials and share our commitment to protecting the environment.”
Trex is actively working with manufacturers across a wide range of industries – such as rotational molding, blown film, profile extrusion and material compounding – to explore additional uses for its LLDPE pellets. As the product innovator, the company has the flexibility to modify and re-formulate pellet content as needed to better fit specific needs, processes and applications.
About Trex Company
Trex Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of high performance wood-alternative decking and railing, with more than 20 years of product experience. Stocked in more than 6,700 retail locations worldwide, Trex outdoor living products offer a wide range of style options with fewer ongoing maintenance requirements than wood, as well as a truly environmentally responsible choice. For more information, visit trex.com. You also can follow Trex on Twitter (@Trex_Company) or Pinterest (trexcompany), “like” Trex on Facebook, or view product and demonstration videos on the brand’s YouTube channel (TheTrexCo.).