RENEW IOWA: Des Moines’ ReWall builds boards with beverage cartons

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It's not every day you can watch piles of trash turned into something entirely new. But inside the ReWall Company it only takes a matter of minutes for these old beverage cartons to be transformed into stacks of sturdy building materials.

"This material constitutes approximately one-percent of the nation's waste stream and most of it goes straight to the landfill," said ReWall CEO David Phillips.

Instead, ReWall turns it into a variety of products including ceiling tiles for drop-in ceilings and boards that can be used instead of plywood.

"Those cartons traditionally have been very difficult to recycle because of the composition," said ReWall Vice President Jan Rayman.

Part of the problem is the plastic coating, but European countries developed a way to recycle them several years ago. Rayman is from the Chezch Republic where they have been recycling the cartons for about five years, he said. When Phillips learned about the process he recruited Jan to help him bring it to the U.S.

The press-melted boards are not only made of 100-percent recycled material, the plastic from the cartons also make them water resistant. For now, the cartons have to come from a special supplier because Metro Waste Authority does not collect them, but Phillips says he hopes local cartons will soon be added to the mix.

"The day that you see on your recycling menu a picture of cartons," he said, "that's the day that we've had our biggest success."

The first place you'll be able to see ReWall's products in action is at Burgman Academy in Des Moines. The company donated its first boards to the school for an expansion project.