Company manufactures a molded structural material made of recycled materials.
Architect Bob Noble envisions one day blanketing the globe with low-income housing made of recycled trash. After reading a graduate student's thesis on the subject, Noble licensed commercial-production rights to a molded structural material developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, Wis. Called Gridcore, the product is made by mixing virtually any recycled materials -- including wood, paper, cardboard, and some plastics -- with hot water in a hidrapulper, "like a giant Waring blender,' says Noble. The blend is then screened, filtered, poured into a mold that suctions out the liquid, and heat pressed into a ribbed structural panel. Two panels are then glued together to form a material that is competitively priced and up to 100% stronger than other structural panels of the same weight. It's also reusable and reduces wear and tear on machinery. Noble launched his company, Gridcore Systems International, in Carlsbad, Calif., in April 1992 with $1.5 million in private funds. The company is scheduled to open its pilot manufacturing plant this month in Long Beach, Calif., and anticipates first-year revenues of $10 million. Initial demand has come from the trade-show-display and entertainment industries, for which the product's light weight and low volume offer advantages in shipping, storage, and portability. Commercial introduction of Gridcore applications for larger structures is still two years away. -- Alessandra Bianchi