Wasilla company Thermo-Kool keeps cardboard from the landfill by making something new

Wasilla company Thermo-Kool keeps cardboard from the landfill by making something new
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 5:22 PM AKST
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - When it comes to the things we throw away, experts say nothing fills up the landfill faster than cardboard. Most of the cardboard that is collected in Anchorage is barged out of state to be recycled at papermills on the West Coast. But a Wasilla company has been keeping cardboard out of the landfill for a long time and turning it into something new.

Dick Divelbiss, the owner of Thermo-Kool, said his business depends on recycling.

“If we didn’t have the recycling programs we wouldn’t have a product,” Divelbiss said.

The company purchases bales of used cardboard from Mat-Su recycling centers and local businesses and turns it into a variety of products including a hydroseed mulch and stable bedding. Their mainstay product is a spray-on insulation that is made from cellulose, the wood fibers in paper. Divelbiss said the product — which is sold at stores throughout the state — is better than traditional fiberglass insulation for a variety of reasons, including being more energy efficient.

“When we dense pack it in a wall, it goes in there at 3.75 pounds per cubic foot, and the density of that alone just blocks air from moving through and tightens the home,” Divelbiss said.

Divelbiss said the cardboard is treated with a flame retardant that stops it from burning, unlike fiberglass which can melt and actually feed a fire.

“This can save a life by slowing the fire down,” he said.

Thermo-Kool grinds up 20 tons of cardboard a day to make its products, but they didn’t always use cardboard in the manufacturing process. When the company opened in 1977 under a previous owner, the insulation was made from recycled newspapers. Divelbiss said they turned to cardboard a few years ago when newsprint became harder to get because fewer people were receiving newspaper deliveries.

Divelbiss said for now, his company has all the recycled cardboard it can handle from the Valley, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to expand. He’d like to see the state purchase more local products like his and said if demand grows, there’s no reason they can’t keep even more materials out of the landfill and recycle them at home.