Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies, Inc., otherwise known as AERT, was founded in 1988. AERT set out with the goal to develop a new technology that combined recycled wood fiber and recycled polyethylene plastic to create highly-durable, non-toxic and termite-resistant engineered composite building materials.
AERT initially combined recycled wood fibers and polyethylene plastic to make fire logs, evolving to manufacture composite lumber for window sills, door frames and thresholds. The company created a product that was not vulnerable to rot to be used in areas that are typically subject to damage from water or insect infestation.
AERT opened its first manufacturing facility in 1989, just outside of Junction, Texas. A year later, the company introduced the MoistureShield® line of door and window components and commenced its first plastic reclamation operation in Rogers, Arkansas.
In 1992, AERT began manufacturing its LifeCycle™ decking products. Decking products have since become its primary product and have played a significant role in establishing the company as an industry leader. Its ChoiceDek® brand was introduced in 1995.
1998 was the year the company received its first patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the extruded composite material used in its products. Staying true to its commitment to produce composite building products from recycled materials, AERT opened its own plastic recycling and warehousing facility in Springdale in 2001, adding to the manufacturing capacities that were previously built in 1997.
“Unlike some of our competitors, we do the recycling ourselves,” said Randy Gottlieb, president of AERT. “It almost feels like we operate two businesses. We have a recycling division and we have a deck board producing division.”
The company added a new extrusion facility at its Springdale and Junction campuses in 2004, and, in 2007, constructed another brand new extrusion facility in Springdale, next to the existing plant.
“We sell off a bit of our recycled plastic to others but we use most of it ourselves to make deck boards.”
In 2010, a new recycling facility was commissioned in Watts, Oklahoma, and in 2012 AERT commenced sales of its recycled polyethylene. AERT currently operates manufacturing facilities in Springdale and Lowell, Arkansas as well as Watts, Oklahoma.
AERT’s repertoire includes decking, railing systems, fencing and door and window components that are durable, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible. Products are made with thirty-eight percent post-consumer recycled content and fifty-seven percent pre-consume -recycled content.
Each year, the company diverts 114 acre-feet (one acre 114 feet deep or 114 acres one foot deep) of landfill space, which is the equivalent of over eight football fields having solid waste more than 10 feet deep. Through its recycling efforts, it is responsible for saving 2.9 trillion BTU of energy each year. This is the energy equivalent of 23.4 million gallons of gasoline and the savings are equivalent to taking 44,314 passenger vehicles off the road.
AERT substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions, offsetting the equivalent of 135,889 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. In doing so, it has the equivalent impact of removing 29,259 passenger vehicles from the road every year.
The company gets the polyethylene it recycles from grocery bags, stretch wrap, laundry detergent, milk jugs and even the plastic elements of paper plates. “With the paper plates, we separate the paper from the plastic. The paper gets sold off to toilet paper manufacturers and we use the plastic,” Gottlieb explained.
It manufactures a high-quality product with a great deal of variety in the color and look. AERT building materials are impressive not only for the way in which they are sourced and manufactured but also because these are durable and reliable products with zero field failures.
“We have sold docks that go down into the water. We have pool decks. We have ground-touching products, things that have been buried for ten years and don’t have any structural failures,” Gottlieb described.
ChoiceDek® decking and railing products come in grooved and non-grooved versions, in three colors: Beach House Gray, Harvest Brown and Coastal Redwood. The deck boards and trim boards are available in 8-foot, 12-foot and 16-foot lengths. The product is resistant to stains, mold and mildew.
MoistureShield® comes in five solid colors and three exotic color blends. These products are also available in grooved and non-grooved forms. Deck board, trim and fascia come in 12-foot, 16-foot and 20-foot lengths. MoistureShield® was selected as one of Professional Building magazine’s Top 100 Building Products of 2015.
“We also sell our LifeCycle™ brand to customers in Europe,” added Gottlieb. “Those are similar type products just under a slightly different brand. We also manufacture ModernView® decking, which is a brand that is the trademark for LMC, a large distributor around the U.S. that we produce under their name.
“We produce a high-quality product by producing differently than others in our industry,” Gottlieb said. “It takes a little bit longer, and it uses a lot of mixing.” The result, he said, is worth it as it creates a product with a warranty that allows it to be installed anywhere, regardless of how wet it will get.
“Everything that we make has that claim: ‘On the ground, in the ground and in the water’. It won’t swell. It won’t delaminate. It won’t do any of those things all based on our production process, so it’s certainly high-performing.”
AERT has a dedicated research and development team that is working on the next generation of composite building materials and improve on an already superior design. The aesthetic of the composite material looks more and more like real wood, operates the same way as wood but offers better results.
“People have been working with wood for a really long time, and they know how to use it,” Gottlieb noted. AERT’s products mimic wood without the downsides. Not only is the product environmentally sustainable, but it also eliminates the rot from ground and water contact, as well as damage from insect infestation.
MoistureShield® Pro is a proven example of the company’s innovation in action. It watches the market for new opportunities for its product development. As the market moves in a certain direction, so too does AERT. MoistureShield® Pro was a response to its competitors and a way to further improve its product selection. In composite decking, ‘capstock’ has a ‘cap’ of tough, pure plastic surrounding the composite core on either three or four sides.
“As other people have had failures, they have had to change their product, and they put a cap around the outside. We take our same product that we have made for a long time and put a cap on it for our capstock,” he said of the move to make the product even better. “It all sustains the warranty, and we’ve never had a field failure, even with the harsher conditions we allow you to put it in.”
The AERT team has about of 400 people who contribute to the company’s growth and success, and Gottlieb is quite proud of them.
“We’re in the best inventory position going into season that we’ve ever been in, with a combination of inventory and throughput,” he said. “It’s everybody working together to make all of those things happen. When you have the right people, it’s certainly a joy to work with them.”
The company has on-site labs at each facility to ensure quality at its multiple locations. This quality, paired with its commitment to customers and the environment, has resulted in awards and recognitions such as the EPA Award for Environmental Excellence.
“It’s sure nice to get them, but it’s not why we do it. We do what we do for the customers and for our environment and for our society, and we’re quite proud of all the environmental benefits that we get from all of our recycling efforts.”
The continued growth, success and more widespread application of its products is just a matter of continuing to do what it does best: making high quality, innovative composite building materials and offering world-class customer service.
“On the MoistureShield® side, we sell to a distributor, who then sells it to a retailer, who then sells to a contractor. So we have three levels of customer – four if you include the homeowner – four types of customer that we have to be cognizant of pleasing.”
Each year AERT holds a customer appreciation event where customers have an opportunity to learn more about the products and provide feedback while taking in some great Arkansas’ trout fishing. The company shows its appreciation for its highly-valued customers and distributors while it listens to feedback.
“We have a lot of focus on sales growth,” Gottlieb said of the company’s future “All that means is getting better products and better service to satisfy customers.” Gottlieb and AERT are looking forward to the innovative products ready for launch over the coming year. “Construction is coming back a bit, and we see some good benefit.”
“We do it because we want to do what’s right and we want people’s backyards to look nice. We want our customers to be happy, and we want to do what’s right for the environment. We can be good to our people and our customers and do well at the same time. It works pretty well together.”