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Lacombe company working to bolster usage of recycled plastics

‘If you can get creative with wood, you can get creative with plastic’

As recycling trends continue to grow and evolve, a Lacombe-based company is seeking to further educate the public about just how extensively recycled plastic can be used to create a range of products.

“People need to realize there are things they can do right now to help the environment – and quite easily,” said Travis Overacker, who co-owns Pnewko with his brother Chris. These days, the company specializes in the recycling of plastics.

After launching the business in Stettler originally, they later purchased land and set up shop in Lacombe.

Another plant was started up in Ontario 11 years ago. “Between the two of us, we are doing half a million kilogams of material a month.”

The process involves collecting plastics from a range of businesses locally.

“We sort, granulate and package that material up and then we sell it to end-users,” he explained. Currently, they are exploring how recycled plastics can be made into everything from parking curbs to fence posts.

Over the years, the recycled plastic pieces have been sent to end users abroad, and these days, the company is working to build up an increasingly local clientele, he said.

As to the production process, the plastics are cut up into tiny pieces through specialized machinery.

“These big granulators have a mouth at the top, and the material drops into that end and it hits the blades in the middle. The blades cut it to a size that it’s small enough to go through a screen at the bottom,” he explained. “Augers then take it away and put it into bins.”

As mentioned, the company is developing more of a local market these days.

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, they also started producing two ft. by four ft. planters made out of recycled plastic as well, along with lawn furniture, rocking chairs and any kind of fencing.

“If you can get creative with wood, you can get creative with plastic,” he said.

Travis said that overall, there is a lack of awareness about the diverse uses of recycled plastic.

And sometimes, people are wary of change that adapting to a new type of creative ‘material’ may require. But the advantages to the environment are significant.

Travis noted that although strides have been taken towards a greater commitment to recycling, there is room for more open-mindedness when it comes to looking at products that can be created from recycled materials.

For example, if a city opted for installing plastic parking curbs and plastic barrier posts in a year, upwards of 50 to 100 tonnes of plastics would be recycled annually just from those two usages, he said.

“A typical pencil point fence post for a barbed-wire fence – we can make those posts 100 per cent out of grocery bags. One fence post is 3,000 grocery bags.

“So a kilometre of fencing would be about a million grocery bags. We can use up a million grocery bags – all the grocery bags in Red Deer for a year in a kilometre of fence,” he said.

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