Made in Michiana: Polywood Furniture

Our Made in Michiana series heads to Syracuse where Polywood furniture is giving old plastic new life.

At first glance it looks like normal patio furniture.

CEO Doug Rassi says, "For the first ten years we were answering the question - what kind of wood is that?"

The answer?  It's not wood at all.

"We're recycling milk jugs," said Doug. "We're recycling plastic that was once destined for landfills."

That's right. Outdoor furniture  made up of your old household plastics.

"The whole business was born out of the 1980's recycling efforts that the government instituted," said Doug, "and out of that movement came recycled plastic lumber."

"Generally, what it starts as is somebody is done using their plastic container whatever it was for and its initial use is done. Its finished," said Sean Rassi, VP of Design and Technology. "Now, where's it going to go? It's that question." 
For Doug, the answer was outdoor furniture.
"The original Adirondack chair that we built and designed 25 years ago, to this day is still our number selling piece of furniture," said Doug.

While the style was there, it was its durability that really fueled its success. It started out as a hit on lakes here in the Midwest and quickly caught the attention of those living and working on the coasts .

"Today, they'll all tell you - it's the only material  that lasts year after year after year in these sorts of environments, " said Doug.

So how is it made?

"It comes right into a form where it can get washed and pelletized," said Sean. "We can put it through out extrusion process and out comes this lumber that we can make all of this furniture with." 

"We go from the raw lumber to the finished good all in about a 5 minute time period and there is relatively no work and process in our manufacturing," said Brady Maller, VP of Strategy and Development.

Even with that streamlined process, it still takes 250 employees to keep up with the demand. The company anticipates that number to continue to grow.

"Over the last dozen years or so we have doubled the business every three years," said Doug. "That's the track that we're on. That's the path we're on and that's our forecast for the future."

That growth can already be seen here in Syracuse,  where Polywood now occupies almost every building on the block.  Growth Rassi attributes to the workforce available.

"They really care about the outcomes of what we're doing and that matters to us," said Doug.
It's what he says will keep this furniture made in Michiana.

For information on where you can order Polywood furniture, check out their website.

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