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Peter Danko, in his own words, is not an engineer. But a device he created has the York City artist at the forefront of what he believes to be a new artistic industry.

Danko, 66, started working with corrugated plastic shortly after moving from Washington, D.C., to York City in 1995.

The lightweight, recyclable material, often used for signs, intrigued the furniture designer, but he was limited in his use of it because of its open edges, Danko said.

Through a long series of trial and error, Danko created what he calls an edging machine, which he completed in 2011, to close off those openings. He has since patented the process.

"I know it seems like a small thing, but it's a really big deal," he said. "It's more amazing than most people can even imagine, but that's my job."

Thus far, Danko has used his technology to create a large, easily movable piece for trade show art exhibits and the front desk for Creative York.

Now, he's working on creating a line of cabinets using the durable material that lights up without having to be plugged into an outlet. He's making use of the open edges by placing magnets inside the plastic before closing them off to allow the cabinets doors to easily open in both directions or be removed completely.

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VIDEO: Peter Danko

"As a designer, I love the challenge of working with unusual materials," he said. "One of the things I've added to that is this idea of sustainability."

Danko refers to his furniture designs as eco-modern, utilizing recyclable materials and minimizing waste. He was recently featured in a Yale climate journal for these efforts.

His use of a plywood press, a machine his father originally created, allows him to use less wood while bending the material into unique shapes. He's also used seatbelts and automobile tires in his furniture designs.

The auto industry is a major contributor to his work, as the corrugated plastic was originally created to transport car parts, Danko said.

"The auto industry are big wasters," he said.

Danko has taken the issue of sustainability in art as his personal challenge.

"So many designs, they tell you that they're green, they basically have green ingredients, but the idea and the thrust behind the design is basically the same as it was 100 years ago," he said. "They weren't designed to use less resources in a serious structural way, and they weren't designed to be recycled ... and so everything I do kind of revolves around that."

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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