Company Turns Landfill Waste into Eco-Friendly 'Plastic Lumber'

A Minnesota company is turning landfill waste into a new eco-friendly “plastic lumber.” Photo: Flickr/Samuel Mann

What if you could build an entire house out of the waste and debris found in landfills?

Envirolastech, a Rochester, Minn. firm specializing in the development of sustainable building products, hopes to do just that with its production of a new “plastic lumber.”

The company has developed a proprietary formula that uses different mixtures of mineral ash, recycled resins and solid waste materials to create what it calls a “true replacement for wood.”

“Ash is the number one by-product that goes into our landfills, whether it’s coal or incinerator ash. It makes up between 40 to 60 percent of every landfill we have,” said Paul Schmitt, president of Envirolastech, in an interview with local Minnesota news station.

The company says its products are made from 100 percent recycled inorganic materials taken directly from landfills and curbside pickups. All products are also recyclable.

“We’ve produced and developed over 30 products already,” Schmitt told CBS 4 Minnesota. “We can build a complete house out of garbage.”

The plastic lumber is embossed with wood grains to give the appearance of real wood, but it is stronger than conventional wood, the company says. It cannot absorb moisture, so it won’t promote mildew or mold. Products can be painted and stained like wood, as well as cut, screwed, nailed and milled with standard carpentry and woodworking tools.

The company says that the plastic lumber is in its tenth year of field testing and so far shows no signs of chipping, peeling or color fade.

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  1. There are so many compelling reasons to go vegan: ethics, emissions reduction, health etc. I’m often promoting the diet through the blog, as it is one of the most ‘go green’ actions anyone can incorporate into their lifestyle. And it’s doable!

  2. If you have not guessed, I am the author’s father. OK, this is not going to be unbiased, but it is from my truth.

    I am 60 and LOVE to eat. I am certainly not a vegan, but I do LOVE the taste of Almond milk. I also love ice cream sandwiches and my favorite are Tofutti Cuties which are great. Mexican food I can eat every day. Presently my favorite is a Tofu taco combo from El Topo.

    How did I get started, Raquel prepared a corn dog for me, another one of my favorites. It had a stick and everything. Made by MorningStar, I guarantee you will Love it. I want to say that this food is extremely tasty!! Over the years, I have tried different items, one at a time, and have found that it is as good as the old school ingredients, but better for your body and you can have two or three.

    My first concern is taste. Now I know that I can get great taste, eat food that is helping me grow, even at 60, and helping my environment. Wow, what a life.

    Who is doing this? Me

    Why does it work> Because it tastes really good.

  3. Not that I don’t appreciate you sharing your opinion on something you personally believe in I have to disagree with this argument, and point out this was less an article and more of an advertisement.

    I believe in making the world a better place and environmentally more sound. I also think that my eating meat has its place beside those who choose not to. There have been studies of prairie-turned-desert being turned back into prairies because of livestock. They moved the cattle around in pattern of traditional migrating patterns and the land became lush and green again (green for an area that is very hot all the time, anyway). But the people who did this would not have done it if they didn’t also eat the cattle. Owning and raising livestock can also help the environment. And overly large farms growing soy fields do not help the environment. This can be detrimental and is not sustainable.

    Thanks for the article


  4. Going vegan is NOT “doable” for everyone. Fruits and veggies are VERY expensive, and in many parts of the country, including mine, Connecticut, farmers’ markets are seasonal, so going vegan is “doable” only for those with the financial wherewithal to afford them.

    I absolutely HATE soy milk. (To me, it tastes like crap; I guess it’s an acquired taste.) However, I DO like almond milk, and, admittedly, I haven’t had it in a while. Maybe I should start getting it again, although it’s a bit on the pricey side, too.

  5. I forgot to mention that I suppose I could grow at least some of my own veggies, but that’s seasonal, too, and I’m not a canner.

  6. As long as you are using organic soy it is good for the environment.Monsanto soy is sprayed with insecticide and pollutes our creeks and rivers as well as our water supply.

  7. I like this article. I was a junk food everyday eater and now I’m slowly off all of that. It truly and surprising was so easy. Yes easy. It happen so nonchalantly, I had no goal, no title that I was motivated to. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but now, I don’t care about eating meat. I’m really don’t like veggies, but now I do. One day, I decided to cut down soft drinks, then in time, I like water. Same with all the other foods. Just keep deciding to cut down on this, then that, then I looked back it was shocked! That’s the first part. You might ask what I eat now: I will gladly answer that, but I’m out of time now, and it will take a longer format than this. Just what to tell Raquel, keep telling the world. There are more of us out there truly enjoying your message as is. Thank you.

  8. It doesn’t matter if it is organic soy and pesticide free. That makes it the lesser of two evils, but not good. The environment needs biodiversity. Having one plant that covers acres and acres of land pushes other plants out and can be detrimental to animals that live in the area. All it would take is one plant disease and there would be no more soy. Nature has a way around that with biodiversity. Plants should be allowed to change, grow, evolve. I don’t mind helping it along but cultivating what I want to eat but the amount this is grown in is very bad.

  9. I have to say I enjoyed this article, but I also agree with Tori. Plants are vicious life forms as well, and they can definitely cause harm to animals (and do so on a regular basis aka: population control). I’m totally with veganism but there can’t be one or the other in terms of lifestyle, but happy medium between the two.
    Regardless, begin Vegan is great way to help the environment and animals alike. Great article!

  10. Thanks Raquel for the article, it is important that more and more awareness be generated about the environmental benefits to plant based diets as you discuss. As a society in general we should all try to move closer and closer to a plant based diet.

    Going totally vegan can actually help the body heal from many diseases! This is something not many people are aware about. Google Dr. Joel Furhman and his book Eat to Live for more information.

  11. I think that most people could benefit from a more plant-based diet, and that almost everyone would do better if they didn’t consume as many processed foods.

    I don’t think that eating large quantities of soy is healthy though. The meat substitutes made out of soy are often highly processed and not the best choice. (Like anything, moderation is the key.)

    I haven’t found being a vegetarian to be expensive at all (I’m not a vegan though). I don’t buy meat, and I don’t buy very many processed veggie products, so I don’t need to spend a whole lot on food. When fresh produce is too expensive, I like to buy bags of frozen and use it in smoothies and stir-frys. (I’ve been known to eat frozen mangos though!)

  12. I’m interested in where the soybeans are grown for soymilk. Are they organic, are they sustainably grown without the destruction of sensitive ecosystems (e.g. rainforest, prairie)? Are they GMO? What about the transportation costs for bringing soymilk to areas that don’t have readily available sources of soy (and of course the opposite, what are the transportation costs for bringing meat/dairy/eggs to those same areas)? I’m also interested in the back and forth debate I keep reading regarding getting all the necessary B-vitamins in one’s diet as a vegan. What are readily available, non-processed, sources of plant-based B-vitamins? I eat locally and seasonally, including locally raised and butchered meat, dairy products, and eggs. They’re certified organic and free range. How does this type of animal food source compare in greenhouse emissions, fuel useage, and water consumption to soy-based alternatives? It’s very hard to find studies that break down all the factors and present them in an objective science-based manner. Issues of morality and what feeel right are different for everyone out there, but science-based and scientifically defendable research and data are irrefutable. If there are any such studies out there, please post them… I’d love to read them and have a better understanding of what the true costs are.

  13. That’s a very interesting stat on Silk soy milk. I didn’t even consider the amount of water saved used in the production of regular milk compared to soy.

    My 1-year old has a milk allergy so we are using silk now. Not much different, just a little sweeter. Good to know we are helping with water consumption!

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