What if there was a way to remove plastics from landfills across the country, while also making use of a byproduct from coal-fueled power plants? Envirolastech has devised a way to do both: It developed a product out of the two materials that duplicates the structural strength of materials like wood, concrete, and stone.

Paul Schmitt, founder of the Rochester company, worked with a team of scientists off and on since the late 1990s to develop thermoplastic compound pellets. The pellets are turned into plastic composite material that can be cut, nailed, screwed, drilled, and painted with traditional woodworking tools. And they can be used just like wood for building materials like siding, docks, retaining walls, and playground equipment.

There have been plastic composites on the market for years, but Envirolastech’s product is novel in many ways and addresses a lot of the downsides of artificial wood, says Schmitt. Thanks to the pellets’ components, the material is extremely durable. It actually becomes stronger in cold temperatures, confounding scientists because plastic normally gets more brittle as temperatures drop.

“That was the first time we saw physical properties that weren’t natural or possible to get out of plastics,” says Schmitt. “By altering different plastics and different molecular structures and tying them together, we designed a recycled plastic to do whatever we wanted without the cost.”