Post patent boosts recycling plan

What to do with those damn posts?

HAMISH CARDWELL
Last updated 11:30 27/11/2012
Bryce Ecklein
Hamish Cardwell

Staking a claim: Marlborough man Bryce Ecklein with some prototypes of his recently patented fence post made from recycled material.

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Finding the solution to the problem of his ever-growing pile of arsenic-leaching, broken vineyard posts has led a Marlborough man to an elegant solution - and now he has a patent to prove it.

Bryce Ecklein "retired" to New Zealand from the United States 10 years ago with his New Zealander wife and two children and bought a vineyard near Renwick.

He said watching the broken pine fence posts pile up got him thinking. "I just thought, OK this is ridiculous. What could you do with these damn fence posts?"

He said the pinus radiata posts commonly used to hold up grape vines can get brittle or rot over time and have to be replaced. This leaves many grape growers with large stockpiles of the posts.

"As an example my neighbour has a pile that is higher than your head and metres wide. These kinds of stockpiles are creating problems and making arsenic hot spots."

The posts are treated, with a mix of chemicals that contains arsenic. Because of the arsenic, they cannot be burned and have limited use as building material apart from boxing or retaining walls in gardens, he said.

Mr Ecklein's solution was to mulch the posts up and mix the chips with a binding agent and seal the mixture inside plastic tubing. This stops the arsenic from leaching out into the surrounding soil.

"It is nice and stable," he said.

Mr Ecklein received a patent for his invention earlier this month.

During the past five years, he has trialled 30 different combinations of mulched pine post, cement and paint to get the perfect mix. He has two posts undergoing field trials in his vineyard and, after three years, they are holding up well.

The posts are the same size and weight as the treated pinus radiata posts, and he hopes to sell them for the same price.

Mr Ecklein said the next step was to investigate options for funding the project. He aims to keep production in Marlborough.

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- The Marlborough Express

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