From urban waste to school benches

Transforming hard-to-recycle plastics into school benches is precisely the sort of topic destined to pique a school child’s curiosity.
Photo: Nextek

From an education perspective demonstrating how we can now harvest our urban forest and in so doing reduce our reliance on our living trees is a golden opportunity to bring sustainability into the classroom. Which is precisely what Professor Edward Kosior and his team at environmental specialist, Nextek want to achieve by donating a range of different benches made from recycled materials to schools across the UK.

Following years of research into paper-plastic composites Nextek have developed a unique compound that taps into our waste stream to produce a valuable recycled material. This compound has the potential to be used for multiple applications, from waterproof decking and furniture to providing structurally strong materials on a much bigger scale. Its durability, strength and versatility could easily match wood as a building material, in fact in many instances it would surpass it.

WRAP Cymru brought Nextek and the UK’s leading composite decking manufacturer, Ecodek together to merge their expertise. Nextek clean and shred the mixed plastic waste to produce a compound that Ecodek extrudes into strong polymer composite profiles or slats.

This collaborative project – one in a series of recycled content trials funded by the Welsh Government and led by WRAP Cymru – seeks to demonstrate that such composites can be turned into a totally waterproof building material that use a range of awkward to recycle materials from crips packs to plastic food pouches.

Following successful trials Nextek are now ready to donate the resulting outdoor, wheelchair-access furniture that has been designed for schools. As Professor Ed Kosior, founder and CEO of Nextek explains;; “We want young people to better understand the value of tapping into our ‘urban forest’, in other words our waste streams, to produce high-quality building materials that will not only address our landfill issues but reduce our dependence on wood as a building material.”

So far they have donated a wheelchair access bench to Coleg Cambria, a further and higher education college in North Wales and London-based Hawksmoor Primary School. The plan is to continue rolling out these unique benches to schools across the UK in a bid to educate the next generation to appreciate the value of our so called ‘waste’ that should in fact be turned back into valuable and durable materials.


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