The picnic table, the park bench and the boardwalk look like wood, but they are actually made from plastic. Impervious to water, salt, oil, chemicals, and insects, the building material comes from chipped and melted milk jugs and detergent bottles. This new use for high-density polyethylene is making profits for outdoor furniture manufacturers and checking the flow of plastics into our landfills.
The handsome, sturdy outdoor furniture will not rot, crack, splinter or require painting. Consumers find the recycled aspect of the furniture appealing. At a recent garden show, one plastic Adirondack chair was the star attraction because it carried a sign announcing that it had been made from 240 discarded milk jugs.
A growing number of companies are manufacturing an array of products from recycled high-density plastic. Conversion Products Inc. in Portland, Maine, sells a park bench for $395, an Adirondack chair for $255, and a flower box for $55. St. Louis-based ERI Recycling Inc. is making plastic shipping pallets that last up to 10 times longer than the wooden variety. ERI President Art Morey says that in addition to making a profit one of his company’s major objectives is to "take plastic out of the waste stream and do something useful with it."