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Mission of the York Energy Efficiency Committee

Our mission is to respond to the global warming crisis by promoting energy efficiency, alternative energy, and environmental initiatives throughout the town of York, Maine.
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[Source: The US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)]

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Hard Plastic Bottles, Reborn as a Bridge

A recently-built bridge in York was constructed from more environmentally friendly materials. From the Dec. 2, 2011 New York Times:

The town of York, Me., is putting up what could be a bridge to a better future, not because of it where it goes but because of what it is made of: plastic.

Plastic bottles have been the bane of landfills for decades because they do not degrade. To find other uses for these strong and persistent materials, some manufacturers have melted them into boards for beach house decks or spun them into clothing materials.

But while plastics recycling has become more common since the 1980s, far more could be done, environmental policy makers say. The nation recycles only 27.5 percent of its hard plastic bottle waste, versus 71 percent of its newspapers and 67 percent of its steel cans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 figures.

Now comes Axion International, a New Jersey-based company founded in 2007 that has developed a process to make a building material that is strong enough to supplant steel and concrete but is made out of discarded laundry detergent containers and milk cartons. The material, a plastic polymer that is essentially a mix of shredded heavy plastics and a bit of fiberglass, was developed by Thomas Nosker, a professor of engineering at Rutgers.

Steven Silverman, Axion’s president and chief executive, says the manufacturing process is very clean; it uses electricity to heat the materials only, and no additional chemicals are added in recycling the plastics. The resulting polymer can be extruded into any shape.

In addition to prefabricating the 26-by-15-foot bridge in Maine, Axion’s current projects include everything from railroad ties to a boardwalk in Trinidad and Tobago. But Mr. Silverman is already exploring other uses for his product, including building sound barriers along highways, which are usually constructed from concrete, and I-beams. The product costs a little less than steel and concrete in most cases, he said.

Read the rest of the article.

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