If you’ve ever wondered where plastic containers go after sending them out for recycling, take a closer look at a composite deck or picnic bench.

Those products just might have a bit of that milk container you finished last week thanks to Pandya Composite Wood Division, 840 Horner St. in the Hornerstown neighborhood of Johnstown.

Pandya’s Johnstown plant makes products from a plastic and sawdust composite material it calls PaWood.

Those products range from planks used to build decks, garden benches and picnic table kits to tire stops for parking lots.

“People always wonder what happens to the recyclables they send out,” said Himanshu Pandya, the company’s president.

The first step in Pandya’s product development is shredding recycled plastic and cardboard, which comes largely from consumers in Cambria and Somerset counties. The plastic is ground into small flakes; the cardboard becomes sawdust.

The two main materials then are mixed with a small amount of coloring – about 1 percent of the total mix, Pandya said – and melted together.

The mix then is poured into molds.

“This is all done by local people,” Pandya said of the five-employee operation. “We have a welder from the Tire Hill area who makes our molds.”

The company’s most recent product is a composite retaining wall block.

Pandya said the blocks quickly are becoming popular, and the company is working to ship its first order for a project in South Carolina.

The blocks are stronger, lighter and more resilient than similar concrete products, Pandya said. They weigh about 15 pounds per block. They will not shatter if they are dropped or fall, and they will not deteriorate from the effects of acid rain like concrete blocks.

“These are a lot lighter and stronger than concrete blocks,” said Pandya, just before dropping a composite block from a height of about 4 feet.

“They don’t break or shatter if you have an accident.”

On top of their structural advantages, Pandya’s retaining wall blocks aren’t as hard on the wallet. Pandya said his blocks, which cost about $4.50 per block, are nearly 50 cents cheaper per unit than comparable concrete products.

And the products, of course, are friendly to the environment.

Pandya, who started in business locally in 1982 with the founding of Pandya Inc. in Ebensburg, said the idea to start into the composite business came to him out of necessity.

His company has a contract delivering Dell computers, and during the 2000 computer scare, business was busier than ever. That left his company holding the bag – well, the boxes. Hundreds of them.

Disposing of the boxes was going to be a costly process, Pandya said.

Instead, he and his staff began to think of ways the boxes could be used, leading to the spin-off business in Johnstown.

“We were left wondering what we were going to do with all that cardboard and Styrofoam,” Pandya said.

“To throw away 500 boxes would cost about $500. That’s a lot of money, so we decided that we would instead find a way to do something productive with them.”

For more information on Pandya PaWood products, visit PaWood.com.

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