Owls reckon plastic nests will be a hoot

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Barn owls in Staffordshire are snuggling down in the warm and dry thanks to an innovative Sheffield company.

Sheets made from recycled plastic, using a process developed at Ecclesfield-based R3 Products, are being used instead of plywood to make nesting boxes for the owls, which have been in rapid decline since the 1930s.

According to John Chester, from the Barn Owl Action Group, a deterioration in the quality of plywood led to the Group launching a search for an alternative and R3’s sheeting turned up trumps.

“Previously, the boxes have always been made out of exterior grade plywood which was satisfactory up to two years ago when there was a rapid decline in material quality leading to rapid de-lamination and box failure,” says Mr Chester.

“That is why we were looking for alternative materials. Other Barn Owl Groups throughout the country have experienced similar problems with plywood quality.”

In addition to being a robust alternative, the recycled plastic sheeting is also reducing the amount of material going into landfill sites and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

R3’s plastic sheets range in size from two to 12 millimetres thick and are also used as a re-usable and recyclable alternative to plywood shuttering when pouring concrete on construction sites, to line ponds of contaminated water that has been used to extract oil from wells in the Middle East and as an easily cleaned, chicken-friendly lining for hen coops.

The company also makes an innovative, permeable paving product, called Rpave made from recycled plastic, and R-Kerb – kerbing made from recycled plastic that meets all the standards set for its concrete rival, is easier and faster to install and reduces the volume of construction materials going to landfill.