Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
A recent article in the Washington Post’s Business section shone a light on one of the lesser known reasons to recycle plastic shopping bags—wood-plastic composite (WPC) lumber—and how it is being used to rebuild boardwalks in East Coast beach towns that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
The article talks about the wood-plastic composite decking made by Trex Co. (Winchester, VA) that is being used to rebuild the 1.3-mile boardwalk in Belmar, NJ, and smaller boardwalks in Point Pleasant Beach and Sea Girt, also in New Jersey, as well as a boardwalk in Atlantic Beach, NY.
Founded in 1996 by four execs out of Mobil Corp., Trex is a great testimony to the practicality of recycling, and not only plastics. Trex recycles about 1.3 billion plastic bags annually from Target, Wal-Mart and other big-box stores, and then combines the plastic with wood scraps and sawdust, also from recycled scrap, to produce durable, no-splinter decking that resists warping and never needs painting or staining. The company keeps about 400 million pounds of plastic and wood scrap out of landfills every year.
In the article Adam Zambanini, VP of marketing for Trex, explains that rebuilding boardwalks is not something the company does frequently because many of them go 15 to 25 years before needing replacement. However, he says this year they are doing more because people in those towns are hurrying to get their boardwalks finished before summer.
Boardwalks in those oceanfront communities are on the eastern edge of town where the beach meets the buildings, but functionally the boardwalk is pretty much the heart of a ‘shore’ town, the place where everybody ‘hangs out’ and where the summer visitors spend a lot of their time and tourist dollars. In these towns, and I know this from personal experience there, especially Point Pleasant, a summerwithout the boardwalk would be totally weird.
That explains the rush to get them done before Memorial Day weekend. The Belmar project that started on January 9 has an April 30 contract deadline. By that time 2800 pilings should have been driven 25 feet into the sand and hurricane straps will be attached to each joist to let it survive a storm of Sandy’s strength. The Trex decking will be in place and looking good.
In its early years, Trex focused on commercial installations such as Disney World exhibits and various boardwalks. Today, most of its installations are residential. Like most companies working in the housing market, Trex was struck by the Great Recession, however it recently reported 2012 net sales of $307 million, a 15 percent increase over 2011, and is predicting a stronger 2013 given the resurgent housing sector.