It’s almost two years since Luton-based 2K Manufacturing began producing its innovative 100 per cent recycled plastic plywood alternative EcoSheet. Emily Smoucha talks to company ceo Omer Kutluoglu about meeting the growing demand for the product and eventually the UK’s vast plywood market.
Decked out in M&S yellow and green, the hoarding
outside the Marks and Spencer on Stall Street in Bath told customers the store was "open as usual" despite the refurbishment the store was undergoing.
While the hoarding looked like typical plywood, only brightly coloured, this particular one was quite different. It was made of EcoSheet, a 100 per cent recycled plastic plywood alternative from 2K Manufacturing, a Luton-based industrial product manufacturer that uses only waste plastics, mostly sourced from construction sites, to make its products.
2K, which was founded in 2007, is seeing increased demand for its products, with contractors such Lovell and Wates using EcoSheet in their construction projects.
"Demand is far exceeding supply," Omer Kutluoglu, 2K Manufacturing ceo, tells GreenWise.
The UK imports 30 million sheets of plywood each year. Boards can travel from as far away as Brazil, China and parts of Africa. 2K is offering businesses a greener alternative.
EcoSheet is made from all recycled
plastics and is 100 per cent recyclable at the end of its use, unlike plywood boards.
When plastics are recycled, they are separated based on which polymer they are made from. This is because each type of plastic has a different melting temperature, melting flow index and density. All the water bottles will be pulled out, melted down and moulded into a new product while all the milk jugs will go through the same process, only separately. If they are all melted together to be remoulded, it makes the process very complicated. 2K, however, has found a way of using these mixed plastics without having to separate them when recycling plastics.
"The model now with this technology can be to put in all of your plastics regardless of what they look like, and we can work with them directly," Kutluoglu said.
Not only can 2K uses multipolymer plastics in its recycling, but it can also use contaminated plastics as well.
"What’s fundamentally exciting about this company is our innovation
allows us to take commingled and contaminated polymers and make a new product," Kutluoglu said.
Using plywood in construction presents several environmental concerns. Not only does it mean that carbon dioxide-reducing trees are cut down, but the wood is imported to the UK from all over the world. Once here, the boards are easily damaged from moisture. Subsequently, they have to be sent to landfills where methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, is released. Since EcoSheet is made of plastic, rotting in damp weather and being sent to landfill is not a concern.
"It outperforms environmentally, commercially and operationally against plywood," Kutluoglu said.
The upfront cost of EcoSheet is slightly more expensive than plywood, according to Kutluoglu, but when the longevity and lifecycle of the product is taken into account, it’s "many, many, many times cheaper."
Several companies are taking advantage of this green alternative, and 2K is working on a number of national framework agreements with large construction companies where EcoSheet would be used throughout the country on all of the construction companies’ projects.
"We have been extremely pleased with the way EcoSheet has performed as external hoardings in both the Asda Clapham Junction and M&S Bath projects," said Craog Welmers of ISG Pearce, one of the construction contractors that has been working with 2K. "We are now looking to roll it out to more sites as internal hoardings as well as external use."
With the product in such high demand, 2K is looking to expand its facilities. Currently, 2K has one manufacturing plant in Luton with one production
line. The company is looking to quadruple production at the plant to include four production lines. Together the lines will be able to produce 750,000 EcoSheets each year, which would save about 30,000 tonnes of plastic from ending up in landfills each year.
Since the UK plywood market is for about 40 times the capacity of the 2K plant, Kutuoglu said, "we’ve got a long way to go," in expanding production.
In addition to expanding the facility, 2K is looking to expand its plastic sourcing. It is looking to broaden the scope of plastics it recovers from different waste streams, including household waste from the local area.
"For everybody, there’s a huge benefit in doing that," Kutluoglu says.
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