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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Bringing the recycling need to the great outdoors

Thursday, March 17, 2011

R.J. Thomas Manufacturing employees Mike Lubeck, left, Marketing Manager Bob Simonsen, center, and Nate Renken are pictured inspecting a recently completed table which is made out of 100 percent high density recycled plastic - part of R.J. Thomas Manufacturing's Pilot Rock recycled product line, made in Cherokee. Photo by Mike Leckband
R.J. Thomas Mfg. recycling efforts are 'cutting edge'

When most of us think about recycled products, the thought of outdoor furniture may not be at the top of our list.

However,it is on the top of the list at R.J. Thomas Manufacturing of Cherokee.

Among the many products that R.J. Thomas' Pilot Rock brand designs and manufactures, there is a complete line of benches, tables, waste and recycling receptacles and bike racks that are made completely out of 100 percent, high density recycled plastic.

The company started making recycled products back in 1989, and over the past 10 years they have expanded their line dramatically.

Anywhere traditional materials such as metal or lumber are used, people can order plastic as an alternative to their main product line.

In 2010, the company used over 800,000 pounds of recycled plastic in their products. That is equivalent to 6.4 million milk jugs, or approximately 2,500 milk jugs in one picnic table.

The company is excited to promote the fact that these recycled products are made right here in Cherokee.

Recently, the Chronicle Times ran a article about the 'Build with Bags Program' that encourages Iowa schools, parks and communities to apply for a $50,000 grant to help local communities generate funds necessary to purchase recycled plastic outdoor furniture and equipment.

The 'Build with Bags Program' is a cooperative effort among the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, Keep Iowa Beautiful, Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and The Des Moines Register.

One component of the 'Build with Bags Program' from which Iowa stands to benefit is its grant program and school recycling challenge. The grant program was developed to support Build with Bags' primary goal of increasing plastic bag recycling.

It was initiated to support "closing the plastic bag loop" by demonstrating how recycled plastic bags can be re-used in the manufacturing of outdoor furniture and equipment.

It's an innovative approach that will give Iowans a first-hand look at what happens to their recycled plastic bags, and Build with Bags Program sponsors and participants believe it will effectively demonstrate how recycled plastic bags can be re-used.

All governmental entities, schools and organizations (i.e. service clubs or non-profits) within Iowa are able to apply for funding through the grant program to aid in the purchase of items for a school or park.

A maximum award of $2,000 is available with each applicant being limited to one application or project per year.

"Communities all across Iowa stand to benefit from the Build with Bags Grant Program," said Gerry Schnepf, executive director of Keep Iowa Beautiful. "Schools and parks that may have difficulty in purchasing outdoor furniture and equipment now have an opportunity to do so. And it's an opportunity through a program that supports our environment."

Grant information and posters are being distributed by Keep Iowa Beautiful to organizations across the state, and grocery stores are being asked to spread the message within their stores and communities.

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2011 calendar year. Details on how to apply, as well as selection criteria, are outlined online at www.itseasytorecycle.org and www.iowagrocers.com.

The deadline to apply for a Build with Bags grant is April 8. Awards will be announced on April 22, Earth Day.

Many parks and recreation facilities have begun incentive programs to purchase products to close the cycle of going from metal to plastic. R.J. Thomas offers those products and can help close the cycle from waste to functionality.

Currently, Pilot Rock products are available in 10 different colors, along with a few custom colors. The company buys the recycle material already molded in what looks like traditional wood lumber that you pick up from a lumber yard or molded in to other custom pieces.

Most pieces come in a 2 x 10-foot section and can then be cut, drilled, bolted or carved into just like traditional lumber.

Plus, all waste pieces are saved and then recycled once again. There is no waste at all when making these products.

They then can create unlimited design usage for their products, such as taking their traditional A-Frame table made from wood and redesigning it for using 100 percent high density recycled plastic.

The Pilot Rock recycled product line makes up about 20 percent of R.J. Thomas Manufacturing total sales and is ever growing. To see the total Pilot Rock product line including the recycle products go to www.pilotrock.com.

Also, for more information on Build with Bags, or its grant program opportunities, visit www.itseasytorecycle.org or www.iowagrocers.com.

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