Kearns • His product is nothing but garbage.
But that's why Dalyn Judd, president and CEO of Better World Materials, thinks his company's lumberlike creation could prove so pivotal to a world troubled by trash.
His product made entirely from garbage could someday serve as the framework for homes, the foundation for railroad tracks, the posts for fences or the pylons for docks.
"Our goal," Judd says, speaking over the rumble of a refuse-to-wood machine that has been two decades in the making, "is to take garbage and make it as valuable of a resource as we possibly can."
With a prototype plant in Kearns, Better World now can convert up to 20 tons of trash each day into building products.
Production remains limited the company has made only railroad ties so far but Better World recently signed a multiyear contract with Tuff Shed to produce more traditional 2-by-6 planks for shed foundations.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has trumpeted the technology as a green alternative to the landfill. He says technologies, such as those at Better World, "ultimately will allow us to eliminate landfills and use our waste stream for building materials and other things."
Better World's business is based around recyclables such as milk jugs and cereal boxes that recycling centers for whatever reason have rejected. Instead of letting those unwanted items go to the dump, Better World grinds them down and feeds them into a complex contraption of hoppers, heaters and augers. The end-product is a woodlike substance that, although uniformly gray on the outside, consists of black melted plastic and brown flecks of paper on the inside.
It's a substance invented by company co-founder Al Braun, who began tinkering with the technology 20 years ago after seeing what difficulties his home isle of Hawaii faced in dealing with its garbage. After a hurricane, while construction crews were hauling away debris, he remembers thinking, "There has got to be stuff we can do with this."
The process has taken Braun hundreds of thousands of dollars and part of a lifetime. But he now believes it can do what he wanted it to do: Transform trash into a something the world can use.
"I have so much belief in this process," he says, "that we have got to make it work."
If successful, Better World could tap an almost unlimited supply of trash. The average American produces more than 4 pounds of garbage every day.
"Are we going to run out of garbage?" Judd muses, "I don't think so."
Better World is negotiating with an international company which it could not name because of a confidentiality agreement to bring full-scale plants to 15 states. Judd is aiming for plants that could process up to 2,000 tons of rejected recyclables a day and employ an estimated 360 people each.
That goal remains some distance away for a company of eight employees that still must retool its machine to produce something other than railroad ties and which still must certify its product as an approved building material.
But Judd believes it will happen and hopes people will someday be able to choose between boards made of wood and recycled trash.
"This will touch 100 percent of the world's people," he says. "Who do you know who lives in a house? Who do you know who works in a building? Who do you know who creates garbage? Those are the people we can touch the lives of."
The company still hasn't determined a price for its product. But Judd says his goal is to make it comparable with existing lumber. It's a real possibility, he says, for a company that not only can make money off its product, but also off dumping fees and recyclables such as metal and glass.
But even if the price comes in a little higher, Judd says his product could have a better selling point: It's garbage.