Firm that makes fence posts from soft plastics to build Blenheim factory

3:08 pm on 4 January 2023
Jerome Wenzlick of Future Post

Future Post managing director Jerome Wenzlick said there was a lot of demand for its fence posts from wineries in the top of the South Island. Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

A New Zealand company that makes fence posts out of soft plastic will soon be manufacturing its products in the South Island.

That means collection points for the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme are expected to be re-established across Nelson and Marlborough.

Future Post managing director Jerome Wenzlick said the company started making fence posts nearly five years ago in Auckland, using soft plastic waste.

"We've built all our own machinery and figured out how to use all the different types of waste plastic that no one else can use and get our production up so we can make a post that's the same or better than wood, which is what we're up against."

It is now experiencing strong demand for its products across the country, particularly from wineries in the top of the South Island.

Wenzlick said the cost of freighting posts from Auckland across the Cook Strait was significant and given the demand in the viticulture industry, it made sense to also establish a factory in Blenheim.

"We can actually show that plastic straight off the vineyard is made into a post and back to the vineyard, you can't get much more circular than that."

Plastic before it becomes a fence post

The plastic before it becomes a fence post. Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Work is underway on the plant, which is expected to open by next May.

Future Post currently manufacturers posts at its Waiuku-based factory in Auckland. Its largest posts weigh almost 20kg, with roughly half made up of soft plastic and the other half from plastic from 20 litre drums, yoghurt and ice cream containers and milk bottles.

Wenzlick estimates there were up to 8000 pieces of soft plastic in each fence post.

"We've got two post machines here running now and we're still way behind our orders and demand so that's why we're putting in another factory in Blenheim."

A farmer himself, Wenzlick said he hated seeing plastic all over the side of the road, blowing across the countryside and thought there had to be a way to put it to use.

The Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme was first launched in 2015, but stopped three years later when the offshore plants processing New Zealand's plastic no longer wanted it.

Farmer and Future Post founder, Jerome Wenzlick, said there was significant demand for the product.

Wenzlick estimated there were up to 8000 pieces of soft plastic in each fence post. Photo: Photo / Supplied

Wenzlick decided then to make sure his machinery would work in order to keep the scheme alive.

"We spent a lot of time and money to make sure we could use all of that plastic that gets collected and since we started again, cautiously, with collection bins, as we've grown they have extended their collection services."

Packaging Forum chief executive Rob Langford said the soft plastics recycling scheme had grown significantly in the last year and was tracking to collect 500 tonnes of plastic this year, up from 260 tonnes last year.

It had also added another 76 collection points for soft plastics around the country.

Langford said Future Post's new Blenheim factory would increase collection efficiency in the South Island, reduce transport limitations and allow for new collection points to be established in the top of the south.

"It's not just a matter of putting a bin at the store, it's making sure we have all of the infrastructure in place so we can take it, collect from the stores, bale it, and then move it through the logistics network without actually adding any additional transport on the road as we are very conscious of our carbon footprint."

The goal was to grow the scheme again in 2023, he said.

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