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Road cones no longer fit for purpose are being saved from disposal at landfills and recycled at Matta Products.

The Ōtaki company grinds up the cones, mixes the granules with other recycled plastic, melts them down and creates safety matting for playgrounds, industrial plants and commercial facilities throughout the world. They’re even used by Fulton Hogan, the big infrastructure company that is now supplying Matta with the cones.

Matta was approached about a year ago by Fulton Hogan. That company is involved in extensive roading projects throughout New Zealand. It had hundreds of road cones that were going to the landfill and wanted to find a reliable recycler that could create something useful from the waste product.

Tim Scott, Matta’s factory manager and son of company founder Murray Scott, says that after a meeting with Fulton Hogan in Auckland, the cones started arriving by the truckload.

“It works well for both of us,” Tim says. “They don’t have to dump the cones and we can make good use of them.”

RECYCLED: Matta factory manager Tim Scott with a road cone and a bag of granules, the result of the cones being ground down. The granules will end up as safety mats for playgrounds and industrial facilities.

Photo Ian Carson

About 10,000 cones – or about 50 tonnes – has been recycled already.

Fulton Hogan imports more than 100 tonnes of road cones a year, mainly to replace cones that have faded and become unusable on roads and construction sites, or become buckled and dented by vehicles regularly knocking into them.

The company says recycling them at Matta is taking a safety product that’s at the end of its life, and creating a new safety product.

Fulton Hogan estimator Beaudene Pumipi says road cones have a fairly short life span and there’s huge demand for them.

“What we have at the end is massive annual wastage that’s become an industry problem,” he says. “When I found out they {Matta] could recycle PVC, it was great news to me.

“I think it’s a really awesome programme. It’s great for the environment and a great standard to set for others to follow.

“Everyone’s got a story or a memory about cones in New Zealand growing up, so I think to have some sort of opportunity for these cones to have a better life, that resonates with everyone.”

Road cones are a highly visible symbol of Fulton Hogan’s work, and their sheer number means the company can make a sizeable difference environmentally by re-using them.

As flexible PVC, the cones are ideal for making the matting for which Matta has become famous. They’re used on playgrounds in California, and at the United States and British plants of well-known luxury car manufacturers.

Traditionally, Matta has used the PVC from other waste, such as electrical cables, with the copper separated out. Other materials include outer body tubing and oxygen masks from hospitals and medical facilities, and even PVC aprons used by butchers at freezing works.

Matta is one of Ōtaki’s most enduring companies. It had its genesis with Murray Scott in 1979, when his vision for a plastics recycling factory was realised with the opening of Plastic Granulators.

“He was probably a generation ahead of his time,” says son Tim. “Back then his recycling ideas were not really supported, and there was little financial help for it.”

Some of the machinery born of  Murray’s ideas and local Warren Lauder’s mechanical know-how are still used at Matta today.

Matta Products was created 30 years ago, in 1992.

Local firm recycles old road cones



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