Friday, November 16, 2007

Expo touts trash-turned-treasure

More than 60 vendors strut their products made of recyclables at ecomaine's Green Expo.

Portland Press Herald
November 16, 2007

What do deck boards, kitchen countertops and fleece jackets have in common?

They all can be made from recycled trash, and all were on display Thursday as part of the Green Expo, organized by ecomaine, Greater Portland's waste handling and recycling agency.

"There are people who are afraid that things made out of recycled materials are inferior or dirty," said Shelley Dunn of ecomaine. "There's lots of misunderstanding."

The Green Expo filled the Sullivan Gymnasium at the University of Southern Maine with more than 60 vendors, many of whom have turned waste paper, plastic and other recyclables into new products. The idea, said Dunn, is to promote recycling by showing consumers what happens with the stuff that's diverted from the trash can.

While there is still resistance, demand for such products is clearly growing among consumers who want to help the planet when they spend their money, vendors said.

"There's more and more interest in green products," said Don Skeffington of Maine Green Building Supply in Portland. "It really is an exciting time."

Skeffington was busy showing flooring products and kitchen counter material such as Paper Rock, a countertop material that looks like a rich wood composite and is made out of recycled paper. "This is very popular," he said.

Nearby, Mike Descoteaux was showing Correct Deck, decking material made with recycled polypropylene, the kind of plastic that's in yogurt containers. Correct Building Products makes the decking in Biddeford.

Dunn, meanwhile, strolled around the exhibits wearing a gray fleece jacket made from old soda bottles.

Not all of the vendors were showing off recycled waste. While the Green Expo was organized to promote recycling, it became a larger event that promoted all kinds of earth-friendly products.

Christine Parker showed off Tree Free Greetings, a line of greeting cards made from sugar cane and kenaf, a fast-growing hibiscus that's grown in the southern United States. "It has been so well received," she said.

Vendors displayed solar panels, composting toilets and other products, and promoted composting, bicycling and mass transportation. The free event also featured a series of 45- minute workshops on a range of subjects, from renewable energy to green buildings.

A similar "Go Green Expo" was held on Saturday in the Mount Ararat High School gym in Topsham. Dunn said the organization plans to make the Portland expo an annual event.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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