A circular economy is aimed at eliminating waste and promoting the continual use of resources. Circular systems create a closed loop through reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling. While many U.S. companies look for ways to implement circular economy systems, several are making construction and industrial products utilizing recycled materials.
GreenMantra Technologies, a clean technology company based in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, upcycles post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastics—shopping bags and dried-up markers—into synthetic polymers and additives for industrial applications—asphalt and roof shingles.
“Our mission is to advance the circular economy by beneficially reusing plastics to create value-added products for industrial applications, thereby significantly reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills or our oceans,” says Jodie Morgan, CEO of GreenMantra.
The Canadian company utilizes a catalytic depolymerization process to create polymer additives and synthetic waxes from recycled plastic feedstocks. The additives function as performance enhancers and processing aids in the production of residential roofing shingles, commercial roofing membranes and waterproofing underlayments. The materials also are utilized in plastic composites for decking and profiles, as well as plastic products like industrial packaging, waste bins and storage containers.
“Often, manufacturers must make sacrifices if they want to utilize post-use plastics in their formulations. GreenMantra’s polymers and polymer additives defy that model,” says Morgan. “In each application, our additives enhance performance, durability and strength of the end use product while also improving the operational efficiency and reducing overall formulation costs.”
GreenMantra products are utilized in a variety of end applications—roofing, roads, plastics and composites—and each has a specific set of fitness-for-use requirement. It has partnered with companies like Crayola to recycle spent plastic markers and convert them into additives that are used by Malarkey, a major roofing product manufacturer.
“GreenMantra translates these specific application requirements into defined physical properties for our products and then precisely manufactures each product to those defined physical properties and specifications,” says Morgan. “For example, GreenMantra’s products have the unique polymer structure to be compatible with asphalt used in roofing shingles and help to increase the durability and flexibility of the shingle so it is more resistant to impact (deformation) from hailstones and creates a longer-lasting product.”
Another company making a construction product from recycled material is Artis Wall, a brand of Waddell Manufacturing based in Grand Rapids, Mich. The company uses reclaimed barn wood planks for installation on walls. The planks are installed utilizing a Velcro system, which makes them reusable and will not damage the wall.
“When we reclaim the barn wood off of barns, we install a new plank behind each of the old planks,” says Will Kimmerle, creator of the Artis Wall by Waddell. “This restores the barn in the process of reclaiming the wood. We believe in maintaining the beauty and history of each and every barn.”
As each plank is produced, it is stamped with a special code. The code can be entered on the company’s website and will display a picture of the original barn and history behind the barn where that specific plank came from. Additionally, the sawdust from the production process is sold and used as cattle bedding.
“We are adamant about using all waste. We are even encouraging employees to transition to electric vehicles by installing car chargers at our manufacturing facility,” says Kimmerle.
For GreenMantra, sustainability is the foundation of its business model. In 2019, the company commissioned a new facility that upcycles waste polystyrene (No. 6 PS, Styrofoam, foam cups, foam packaging, etc.) into performance polymers.
“The plastics industry is under mounting pressure to shift from a linear economy to a circular economy. This will require a paradigm shift in the attitudes of manufacturers, governments and consumers,” says Morgan. “GreenMantra’s technology is acting as a catalyst for this shift by demonstrating that companies do not have to sacrifice quality or margin to participate in the circular economy.”