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Weatherproof recycled products from wood processing and plastic side products
Wood-plastic composites developed by VTT can replace impregnated wood

With methods developed by VTT and companies various types of sawdust and wood shavings and various plastics can be made into a new type of composite for the manufacture wood-plastic composite products. Different combinations of sawdust, cutter chips and surface shavings and plastics can be used to achieve different properties in wood-plastic composites, such as impermeability, hardness and toughness. The products manufactured from such raw materials are easy to mould into the desired shape and into designer products emphasising the natural shades of wood.

Paula Sarsama (right) and Managing Director Markku Vilkki of Conenor Oy are well up in the manufacturing methods of entirely recyclable wood-plastic composite materials.
High resolution image
Photo: Kalle Heiska

There is a demand for wood-plastic composites on the world market as many countries have decided to limit the present use of toxic substances for impregnating wood. Next year in Europe, Japan, the USA and elsewhere restrictions on the use of such substance are due to come into force. Wood fibres can also replace the currently used glass fibres reinforcements, which are difficult to recycle. Wood-plastic composite is easy to recycle and can ultimately be burnt for the production of heat.

Lumber made of wood-plastic composite is already commonly used in the USA for outdoor porches and awnings. Other applications include durable cases for consumer goods and designer products. The proportion of wood fibre in the end product may vary from 20% to as much as 90%, depending on the manufacturing method.

High quality waste wood, side products of the wood processing industry and good recycled plastic can be used as raw materials for wood-plastic composites. The raw materials to be combined are thus inexpensive. There is a new unique technology which can even utilise fresh sawdust. Promising results have likewise been obtained from tests in which wood-plastic composite was manufactured from wood chips and shavings heat-treated by VTT and plastics.

Wood-plastic composites require plastic granules and wood chips or shavings.
High resolution image
Photo: Kalle Heiska

The R & D work in wood-plastic composites is financed by several companies, by VTT and by Tekes. The work is carried out by VTT, companies, Åbo Akademi University and Lahti Polytechnic Institute of Design. The aim of future co-operation is to strengthen sustainable development and shared Nordic expertise into a competitive edge on world markets.

According to Markku Vilkki, managing director of the Finnish company Conenor Oy, the co-operation headed by VTT will enhance the credibility of the wood-plastic composite in the wood processing industry. The research findings so far are a good support for getting business activities off to a fast start in Finland. According to Mr. Vilkki the fact that the production of high-tech wood products can be started cost-effectively with the methods of the plastics industry and small initial investments will serve to increase demand.

More information:

VTT Processes
Dr. Jaakko Raukola
Tel. +358 3 316 3568, +358 40 527 2684
VTT Building and Transport Conenor Oy
Jyrki Mali, Senior Res. Scientist
tel. +358 0 456 5553, +358 40 553 9014
Conenor Oy
Markku Vilkki, Managing Dir.
+358 40 753 4605

Feel free to use all news. Photographs copyright Kalle Heiska.
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