When Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls opened for business in the mid-1980s, the concept of a “circular economy” was barely known, and the use of recycled plastics in manufacturing was not the stuff of a typical business plan. But decades later, this pioneering manufacturer of recycled plastic products holds contracts nationwide, and the company’s long-lived success has played a role in establishing a market for recycled plastics and driving demand for the end product.
Through a network of dealers and distributors, and federal contracts with the military and the National Park Service, PRIF products are “sold all over,” says Sue Waters, the company’s VP of Sales and Marketing. Just look around and you’ll see them: park benches and picnic tables, car stops and speed bumps, pallets and landscape timbers.
In the early days, Waters explains, the company had to prove the viability of recycled plastic products. But with those merits now known, PRIF uses post-consumer and post-industrial plastic to manufacturer not just outdoor products the market has come to expect, but also a wide array of unexpected items: things like rot-proof nailer boards for the installation of artificial turf, fire-and-rescue cribbing to stabilize rollover vehicles and components used by Fareway to install freezer doors. PRIF’s list of OEM items goes on and on.
With over 100,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space, seven productions line and two raw-material processing lines, PRIF is one of Iowa Falls’ largest employers. To keep a business of this size stable
through the kind of market variability that’s put similar companies out of business, PRIF relies, in part, on its 400 combined years of employee experience.
With that kind of expertise, the company has been able to continually improve their manufacturing process. Case in point: Some competitors may use only high-density plastic, but because of PRIF’s early start in the industry (“when plastic was still just trash,” Waters says) the company had to create equipment that could process all kinds of plastics. That flexibility has allowed PRIF to adapt when raw material prices fluctuate.
A huge warehouse full of those raw materials also helps. “We’re packrats,” Waters admits, “but that’s helped us weather the markets.”
The raw material varies. Much is made of the use of plastic bags – it takes about 10,000 to make a park bench – but they’re just a portion of PRIF’s material supply. Nearly all comes from within a 500-mile radius. Most of the post-consumer material comes from the grocery industry; the post-industrial plastic sources vary widely and include, for example, by-products from food-packaging manufacturers.
“We rely on networking to get leads for the material,” Waters says, which is one of the reasons Plastics Recycling of Iowa Falls has been a long-time Iowa Recycling Association member. “For us, the best benefit of membership is networking for materials sources.”
IRA members have likely noticed the engraved bench PRIF has donated to the Iowa Recycling and Solid Waste Conference auctions in recent years. Other ways of giving back include a partnership with the Iowa Grocery Industry Association’s Build with Bags grant program. Learn more about Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls.