Think Fencing’s PVC recycling breakthrough has all hands on deck

March 24, 2022

The team at Portarlington-based Think Fencing is expanding to offer a new range of decking using proprietary PVC recycling technology after achieving international success with its sustainable and durable fencing products.

The GMC member has already made a name in global racing as the world’s largest manufacturer of track running rails under a collaboration with Adelaide’s Simtrack, exporting to 12 countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, South America and New Zealand.

It is now launching new business unit Think Decking, and Founder and MD Jack Fitzgerald has also set his sights on bringing Australia in line with global use of PVC in window and door frames.

“That is a huge industry that is untapped in this country so we will be going into window profiles most likely at the start of next year. It is very exciting stuff,” Mr Fitzgerald tells Geelong Manufacturing Council.

Think Fencing began two decades ago when Mr Fitzgerald, while still at school, devised a clip-on solution to improve the visibility of paddock wire fences, which are difficult for horses to see when in flight mode.

“I did that while I was mowing the lawns and fixing old cars to make some additional income,” he says. “My father was into plastics and my mother was into horses and I thought I’d go down the plastic horse-fence path. It has all worked out pretty well.”

That was followed with other innovations, such as the world’s first electrified fencing and Australia’s first PVC post and rail fencing to be offered in a range of colours and wood-grain effects, as well as residential picket fencing and privacy screens, and fencing for subdivisions – particularly in cyclone-prone Cairns where the fencing is favoured as it flexes in the wind.

Think Fencing now works with Geelong Company EcoDuct to develop and manufacture a low profile fire rated ventilation ducting system that is now specified on most large scale high rise apartment buildings in Australia.

It also supplies major studs across Australia, and recently supplied a sample to Geelong’s Rosemont Stud with an intention to re-fence some properties there.

Mr Fitzgerald is now a quarter shareholder in Tribus Group, which plans to launch a range of ultra-insulated composite PVC windows and doors. Many other countries use PVC in the majority of their window frames, he says, and this affords less heat transfer than via aluminium window frames, keeping houses both warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

The innovation can also help protect against supply chain bottlenecks and inflation.

“You look at the price of timber, the price of aluminium — that is why we are spending so much time developing these recycling technologies that can take a product that is going into landfill and put it into real engineering rather than using a commodity-based product,” he says.

The team of just over 20 are now in the final stages of developing Think Decking after working since late last year on its innovation that will divert tough-to-recycle PVC industrial products such as electrical conduit, pipe, cladding and packaging and repurpose it using proprietary technology developed with CSIRO and funded by Sustainability Victoria.

“We are also working with the Australian Vinyl Council to set a standard set of recycled specifications so that industry can specify what they require,” Mr Fitzerald says.

“Think Decking will be hopefully released in the next two months in a commercial sense — all out of PVC that was destined for landfill.”

Photo: Jack Fitzgerald, Think Fencing MD & Jenn Conley, GMC CEO at Think Fencing’s Portarlington facility