Thursday, 12 October 2023 11:55

Plastic posts of the future opens plant in the South

Written by  Mark Daniel
Future Post founder and chief executive Jerome Wenzlick at the company’s Waiuku factory. Future Post founder and chief executive Jerome Wenzlick at the company’s Waiuku factory.

It is estimated more than half a million wooden vineyard posts get broken every year in Marlborough.

However, the environmental consequence of their CCA treatment rules out burning or burying the posts. This means there are piles of old posts on every vineyard, with growers scratching their heads about what to do with them.

The recent opening of Future Post's second soft plastics recycling facility at the former Timberlink site in Blenheim will be welcomed by an industry that is taking huge strides to embrace improved sustainability.

The Future Post story is one of genuine Kiwi ingenuity. It saw the company's founder Jerome Wenzlick working as a farmer and fencing contractor for 15 years seeing timber post quality slipping, wastage increasing because of breakages and struggles with continuity of supply.

"Surely, if plastics are this tough, we should be making fence posts from them?" he thought. Then a chance meeting with farmer and recycling guru Bindi Ground led to a business partnership being formed producing premium fencing products from plastic. Future Post was born.

A research trip to the US to research plastics recycling, was followed with a period of R&D, with a production plant built at Tokoroa with the help of local company South Waikato Precision Engineering. This led to the eventual set up of a factory in 2018 at Waiuku, south of Auckland.

Today, the Waiuku factory takes in bales of recycling HDPE plastics including the infamous Fonterra 'soft' milk bottles and a range of soft plastics sourced from supermarkets and regional collection hubs. Broken down into 'chips', the plastics are blended into a secret recipe which is then pushed through an extrusion plant, emerging as a largely-solid black post. The items are then cured by passing through a waterbath to become the finished product.

Currently posts are made in 125mm diameter rounds up to 2.4m in length; 200mm diameter rounds for use as strainers are up to 2.7m in length and 135mm square section posts up to 2.4m long.

Said to be as strong as timber, the plastic posts can be worked with the same tools as wooden ones and are sawn and easily drilled, using standard staples in the normal manner. They are also suitable for driving with mechanical posthitters and don't expose fencers to any splitters.

Claimed maximum life is over 50 years, compared to the more typical 15 to 20 years for timber. The product is fully Bio-Gro NZ Certified and currently available through many rural supply stores at a slight premium over its wooden equivalent.

Hassan Wong, Future Post general manager, said the Waiuku-based company has processed 1800 tonnes of recycled plastic in the last 12 months to make their post. However, he believes this figure is likely to jump to over 4,000 tonnes per year with the addition of the new factory. As the country's largest wine producing region, Marlborough used a lot of posts, which Wong says made Blenheim the perfect place to make them.

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