New Frontier explored for highway sound barriers
Recognizing that relationships are the key to building and retaining business, the New Hampshire Business Resource Center, in cooperation with the state Department of Transportation, has been working with New Frontier Industries Inc. of Milton to research and develop soundwall barriers made of 95 percent recycled plastic. The barriers are cost-effective and environmentally friendly, according to the company, which as part of a pilot project provided several panels of the new plastic soundwall for installation on Route 101 in Auburn. Roy Duddy, director of the Business Resource Center and former chairman of the Governor’s Recycling Program, has been assisting New Frontier Industries, a subsidiary of the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, since its inception in 2001. “New Frontier Industries helps local companies with their waste disposal by taking otherwise unrecyclable plastics and turning them into useable products, thereby generating revenues that can be used for further research and development,” says Duddy. According to Mike Samson, CEO of New Frontier Industries, only 7 percent of all plastic is recycled, and almost 17 percent of all waste in landfills is plastic. New Hampshire disposes of approximately a quarter-million tons of plastic into landfills each year, costing businesses, municipalities and consumers nearly $17.5 million. New Frontier diverts the waste from landfills by using various types of plastics to manufacture products like its EverQuiet soundwall panel being used in the DOT’s pilot project. Most of the mixed plastics that New Frontier recycles originate in New Hampshire and include a blend of grocery scrap, computer and electronics cases, various automotive parts and manufacturing scraps from wire assemblies. The plastic panels created from these mixed resins are completely recyclable, which means putting the plastic back into the state’s economy, not into its landfills. “Instead of being a costly solid waste issue,” says Samson, “the plastics that would have ended up in New Hampshire landfills are now being recycled into competitively priced products that can be used again and again.” The DOT was looking for an effective soundwall panel with a natural appearance that provides easy, low-cost installation and maintenance without harmful consequences to the environment, said Charlie Hood, chief of Project Development Section in the DOT’s Environment Bureau. Hood said sound barriers are typically made of wood, concrete or steel, posing installation and maintenance challenges, high costs and solid waste issues. “Pressure-treated wood contains contaminants which can leach into the groundwater,” said Hood. “We were interested in something more environmentally friendly.” New Frontier Industries’ EverQuiet soundwall panels are easy to install and maintain at an affordable cost, the firm said. Unlike pressure treated wood, the “oak style” recycled plastic soundwalls do not rot, crack or warp and are water- and UV-resistant, lasting two to three times longer than wood. New Frontier guarantees the product for 25 years, although Samson believes they will hold up as long as 40 to 50 years. And, Samson said, once the panels have served their purpose, New Frontier will take them back and recycle them again for new products. The NHBRC identified New Frontier’s cutting-edge technology as an appropriate fit for the DOT and connected the company with state officials. DOT’s Environment Bureau, Bureau of Materials & Research and Construction Bureau have been working closely with New Frontier to develop the work plan for the pilot project. The department’s bridge maintenance personnel have handled installation of the panels. Said DOT Commissioner Carol Murray, “It is a great example of what collaboration can produce.” The Business Resource Center was instrumental in securing financing for New Frontier Industries and launching it into commercial operation in 2003. The NHBRC has also coordinated a working partnership between New Frontier and the Pease Development Authority, which is trying to mitigate noise levels at Pease International Tradeport. “The Business Resource Center understood our needs for a reliable product that would reduce noise levels without adversely impacting the environment, so they introduced us to New Frontier Industries,” said PDA Executive Director George Bald. “We are pleased to do business with a New Hampshire-based company that can provide us with the quality products and service we are seeking.” Installation of the EverQuiet soundwall panels at Pease was scheduled for late 2004. Both Duddy and Samson believe the relationship between New Frontier Industries and NHBRC serves as a good example of New Hampshire’s friendly, supportive business climate. “It was exciting to facilitate the cooperative efforts for New Frontier Industries because it showed what New Hampshire is capable of achieving,” says Duddy. “This successful project is a great model for other profitable ventures that can benefit our state’s communities and businesses.” For more information about the Business Resource Center, call 271-2591 or visit nheconomy.com. To learn more about New Frontier Industries, visit newfrontierindustries.com. nhbr This article was provided by the New Hampshire Business Resource Center.