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Hog barn panels made out of plastic jugs
Virgil Houtkooper wants people to keep drinking milk - lots of milk.
No, he isn't advertising for the American Dairy Association. Houtkooper needs about 14,000 milk or other plastic jugs daily to keep his company, Iowa Plastics Inc., in operation. The one-year-old company turns plastic milk jugs, soap jugs, ice cream pails, etc., into 4 by 8-ft. sheets of virtually indestructible plastic. About 90% of the sheets are sold to hog producers who use them as farrowing crate dividers or to line the walls of farrowing or nursery buildings.
The company, located on Houtkooper's farm near Hull, Iowa, is the first recycling business of its kind in the Midwest and possibly the country. "We're taking a throw away product and making something good out of it," says Houtkooper, who markets the sheets through lumber yards, elevators, and hog equipment dealers. Re-cycled plastic sheeting costs only about half as much as plywood and lasts much longer because it doesn't rot and is so smooth that bacteria can't stick to the surface, says Houtkooper, adding that he hasn't found a hog yet that can wreck it. You can nail through the sheets or use sheetrock screws. No pre-drilling is required.
Collection sites throughout Iowa and surrounding states collect the plastic containers and turn them into granulated plastic (the company pays 10 to 14 cents a pound). Cardboard boxes containing 800 to 1,000 lbs. of granulated plastic are trucked to the company and stored until needed.
To manufacture the sheets Houtkooper uses an experimental 600-degree propane gas oven invented by a man in Missouri. Houtkooper purchased the patent rights to the oven. Granulated material is augered into a dryer, weighed, and dumped into a 4 by 8-ft. two-piece aluminum dye resembling an oversized cookie sheet or pizza pan. The granules are leveled off by hand. A lid is placed on top and a dye is placed into the oven for 20 minutes. The dye is pre-heated in the oven to transform the plastic into a liquid state. Hydraulic pressure is then applied to flatten the sheet. The sheets are cooled on racks for two hours. A crew of four full-time employees trims off the excess plastic and starts the process again.
Sheets are available in 1/2 and 3/8-in. thicknesses in two colors. Milk jugs and other white plastic containers produce a marbled white sheet while soap bottles and other miscellaneous plastics combine to make a multi-colored sheet. The 1/2-in. thick sheet weighs 80 lbs. and sells for $50. The 3/8-in. thick sheet weighs 60 lbs. and sells for $45.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Iowa Plastics Inc., 322 N. Main Ave., Sioux Center, Iowa 51250 (ph 712 722-0692).
Reprinted with permission from Tri-State Neighbor. Story by Susan Reiser.

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1991 - Volume #15, Issue #4