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Plastic lumber touted as new way forward for construction in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMJason Cross
Richard Phillips, who works with Tru North Deck makers of durable construction material made from plastic bottles and other plastic material speaking during an interview at the Gleaner on Thursday, August 11.

His great-grandfather, Raglan Phillips, started the Salvation Army in Jamaica, along with Agnes Foster, when he came to the island in the 1800s.

Now, Richard Phillips, who works with  Canada-based TruNorth Deck, makers of durable construction material made from plastic bottles and other plastic material, strongly believes he has the solution for a major part of Jamaica's solid waste management problem.

According to Phillips, if he were to receive cooperation from both the Government and private sector, he could utilise his expertise and connections to transform Jamaica into a major producer of plastic lumber, which he claims is usually more durable than wooden lumber and could lead to fewer trees being cut down for construction purposes.

"What I see as part of the solution is the appointment of someone who would come and give a fair and balanced approach, so the persons on the dump, the 2,000 people on the dump, will get a fair and equitable amount of money and the product is reused in Jamaica. Right now it's wasted."

"(Plastic) could be a part of building products in Jamaica that we can manufacture. One of the possibilities of that is a thing called plastic lumber," he said.

Phillips added: "I work with a company that has proprietary rights to a formulation that integrates all kinds of plastic into lumber. They have a 500,000 square ft factory; they are the leading company in Canada (that) manufactures plastic lumber. They process annually about 125 million lbs of plastic recycling per year (and) are willing to help set up a company here in Jamaica."

Phillips is hoping he will get the cooperation he needs from the Government and the private sector to get a proper recycling system up and running in Jamaica.


Hoping to meet with PM


He said he was hoping to meet with Prime Minister Andrew Holness to enlighten him on some of the finer details of his plans and ideas regarding recycling.

Phillips told The Gleaner that he believed that companies should play a much bigger role in ensuring that they supported proper recycling of waste and other products.

"The market here in Jamaica is the primary market that I'm looking at. In the initial stage, I have people that can process it in the island if I get the cooperation. Then, 100 per cent of the material could be used here in Jamaica. The way I'd like to place it is the way advanced countries are adopting and moving towards a model that says, if you are producing a product, you are going to be responsible for disposal or the recycling. If you are making $1 billion on widgets, then surely a portion of that should, if you collectively recycle and pay for the recycling, come from the manufacturer," he said.