With the damaging effects of plastic on the environment a topical issue, award-winning social business Eco Furniture is playing its part in keeping waste plastic away from landfill sites.
Furniture and play equipment made in Ipswich from recycled plastic planks are shipped all over the country and products range from picnic benches, tables, signs, planters, play equipment, picnic tables, bus shelters and log stores.
One of Eco Furniture's longest benches, made from 100% recycled plastic at 35-metres, was commissioned by a Berkshire school and it was estimated to have used 120,000 waste plastic bags in its manufacture.
The firm has also made bins and planters for the leading wildlife attraction Colchester Zoo, a play tractor at Jimmy's Farm, an Anglo-Saxon long boat for the play area of the Suffolk heritage site Sutton Hoo, as well as play galleon ships and cars for schools and councils.
Eco Furniture trades with a social mission as part of social enterprise Realise Futures, supporting people who are disadvantaged and/or disabled.
The team at the firm's Lovetofts Drive furniture factory includes people who have been long-term unemployed, who have had health conditions which have made it difficult for them to sustain employment, or who are disabled and/or disadvantaged.
Eco Furniture Operations Manager Lee Caraccio said: "The so-called Blue Planet effect resulting from Sir David Attenborough's revealing nature documentary has shone light on the problem of plastic waste, and just what effect it is having on the environment and marine life.
"The programme seems to have kick-started the consumer war on plastic, ranging from campaigns to get supermarkets to provide plastic-free food aisles to calls for single-use coffee cups and plastic straws to be banned.
"We hope that people in our community, as well as nationally, will recognise the benefit to the environment of buying garden furniture made from recycled plastic waste which would have ended up in landfill sites - things like CD and DVD cases, plastic bottles, plastic carrier bags and plastic containers."
Mr Caraccio added: "We are often asked how the recycled plastic planks are made from soft plastic items, such as plastic milk bottles and carrier bags.
"We don't process the planks ourselves - we make our furniture from them - but it involves shredding the waste plastic into small pieces. It is then ground up, producing pellets that look very much like black peppercorns.
"The pellets are then heated to a very high temperature and forced into moulds, which are then cooled and removed. The plank is then ready for use and can be sawn and cut like normal wood."
Mr Caraccio said people are also interested in the fact that recycled plastic does not need retreating or repainting, and is crack, chip and splinter-proof, insect and animal resistant, and less flammable than timber.
"Timber expands when it gets wet and shrinks when it dries. Recycled plastic doesn't absorb liquid as timber does. It's impervious to fluids, including paints and it never splinters, and lasts at least 100 years. Best of all it, when our furniture is no longer wanted, it is 100% recyclable and can be made into new planks," he said.
Also driving increased interest is the fact that the company trades with a social mission to help people with disabilities and/or disadvantages.
Mr Caraccio added: "This is a reason people like to buy from us. They see the social value of doing right by the planet by buying recycled plastic and helping to change people's lives."
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