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Broken Tail-Light Inspires New Plastics Business


A former Air Force technician's efforts to fix his car's broken tail-light lens, rather than pay $300 for a new one, has resulted in a business built on recycled plastic.

"The break was only the size of a 50-cent piece," Peter Barrow says of the event in 1993. "I couldn't see why it couldn't be fixed. And a replacement was going to cost $300 - outrageous!

"Since no one was around to fix lenses, I realised this could lead to a good business. So I set about designing a repair system for them."

That led to the repair of other plastics, acquiring specialist plastic welding gear, and eventually his setting up what is now Enviroplas Industries Ltd and one of its offshoots, Plascrete.

These include masonry, precast, roofing and dry products. Mr Barrow says the products, under the registered trade name of Plascrete, can be produced with existing concrete-making gear without any investment in machinery and technology, "and could be produced in parallel with existing products".

Development of the new products was assisted by Technology New Zealand, the Government agency that invests in research into new products, processes or services.

Mr Barrow says the impetus to move up from repairing plastic items such as aviation parts, fish bins and bread crates was a friend's request that he build an equestrian ring. "Basically, he wanted a replacement for shredded rubber added to sand, which made a softer surface.

"We'd been granulating plastic that was past it, so we threw some cement into the mix, and it set. So I thought, let's look at something else, something we can do with this non-recyclable plastic."

Plastic and cement pavers were the result. Rock or gravel aggregate is replaced by plastic, sand, "and other bits and pieces".

"They're stamped out and are half the weight of conventional concrete pavers, they have similar compressive strength, better slip resistance, are easier to cut and machine. Some compositions will float on water," Mr Barrow says.

The company has taken out worldwide patents on the products and the means of making them. It has acted to protect intellectual property, is negotiating licences with manufacturers in Britain and Asia, and is seeking joint ventures elsewhere.

"Plascrete has the potential to solve problems with waste plastics by using currently non-recyclable material, particularly plastics that are expensive to sort and are filling up valuable space in landfills," Mr Barrow says.

Enviroplas Industries employs 15 people.


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