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Technical Report #19 - Chelsea Center for Recycling and Economic ...

Technical Report #19 - Chelsea Center for Recycling and Economic ...

Wood-plastic lumber

Wood-plastic lumber claims several advantages over conventional wood products:- It never needs protective sealants (materials can be painted or stained if desired).- Maintenance time and costs are reduced.- It will not crack, split, or rot. (Note: Recent research shows it will rot in certainconditions).- It resists termites.- It can be fastened and machined similar to wood.Several disadvantages (8, 9) have been reported:- It costs more.- It is heavier (typically three to four times heavier than wood).- It costs more to install (e.g., because of the density of composites, predrilling priorto nailing is required, unless nail guns or self taping screws are used).- Wood-plastic lumber will decay.- It requires three to four times as much energy to manufacture as wood products.- Post-consumer recycled plastics can be contaminated.- Product stiffness and load bearing capacity are not as great as wood.- Resistance to ultraviolet light may be a problem.Section VI.7 contains a review of the composite industry's efforts to improve its products.Even with some problems, most industry observers predict dramatic growth in the production ofwood-plastic composite products.The following information on current producers of wood-plastic composites was obtained,in part, from an article in Plastics Technology Magazine (10).The Trex Company of Winchester, Virginia has been the leader in the production ofwood-plastic lumber. Trex’s 1997 sales are estimated at $34.1 million, up from $3.5 million in1993. The company combines recycled polyethylene from stretch wrap, post-consumer grocerybags, and coarse wood fiber in a 50-50 combination. The product is extruded with a singlescrew extruder. Originally manufactured by Mobile Oil Company from hardwood wasteresiduals (sawdust) and plastic grocery bag waste, the product now has national distribution inmost lumberyards as an alternative to wood timber used as decking.Other major producers of decking materials include Fiber Composites Corp. of NewLondon, North Carolina, which extrudes wood-filled virgin and recycled polyethylene deckingand railings; C.W. Ohio, Conneaut, Ohio, which purchases compounded wood-filled pelletsand extrudes deck components; and Crila Plastics of Mississauga, Ontario, which usespelletized masterbatches to produce a lumber product called Extrudawood. ChoiceDek isproduced by ALERT Co. of Springdale, Arkansas, also a pioneer in the composite deckmarket.In addition, a number of companies have purchased manufacturing licenses and productiontechnology from Strandex Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin (see Appendix D). Strandexdoes not produce a particular product; rather they license a direct extrusion technology to make awood-plastic composite material. Strandex licensed products include composite decking, windowand door components, and various architectural components. The following companies areStrandex licensees:20

• Crane Plastics of Columbus, Ohio, produces a product called Timber Tech from 50%wood-filled virgin HDPE. Timber Tech is used for decking, office systems, and windowand door components.• Eaglebrook Products, Chicago, Illinois, produces a product called Durawood EXfrom 70% hardwood flour and recycled HDPE, which is used for decking and railings.• Comptrusion Corp. of Toronto, uses 40-60 mesh hardwood and softwood flour andPE and PVC to produce window and door components. Many profiles are coextrudedproducing a core profile that is also covered with a capping material.• Hoff Forest Products of Boise, Idaho, extrudes wood replacement profiles and architecturalmillwork. Hoff produces the wood component of its products from its ownscrap.There are several other major producers:• Dura Products International of Etobicoke, Ontario, uses 70% sawdust and commercialwood flour in combination with recycled HDPE bottles to produce profiles forDuraskid pallets.• Mikron Industries of Kent, Washington, produces foamed composites and nonfoamedhollow composites.• Louisiana Pacific Polymers produces wood-filled sheet for automotive applications.• Lear Corporation of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, now uses the former “American Woodstock”for use in car interior panels and trim.• B&F Plastics, Richmond, Indiana, extrudes a thick structural sheet called WoodPlastout of 50% wood flour and 50% recycled HDPE. The company also makes otherproducts that use recycled tires (70%) and polyolefin (30%).• Andersen Corporation of Stillwater, Minnesota, produces patio door sills and replacementwindow components from 60% PVC and 40 % wood fiber. Both productscome from scrap generated in the production of other Andersen products. Its first successfulentry was a rot resistant substrate for an aluminum clad patio door threshold.More recently, Andersen began marketing windows made from wood- filled PVC linealsunder the brand name “Renewal.” Andersen has numerous patents in this particularfield and is aggressively protecting its technology. Like Sonnesson Plast ABbefore it, Andersen first compounds the wood and PVC to make a pellet and then extrudesthe pellets into lineals. A number of other lineal manufacturers have begun tofollow suit, including Mikron Industries in Kent, Washington.Other known applications of wood-thermoplastic composites include vegetable and fishboxes (produced in Spain), picture frames, moldings, partitions, furniture parts, brickmold, hottub rims, highway guardrail components, factory flooring and skylights. Another new promisingapplication for wood-plastic products is the production of commercial pellets that contain thepremixed wood and plastic. Reportedly, most of the large commercial compounders have yet toembrace the product but are investigating the possibility of producing pellets. Reportedly, becausethe production of wood-plastic pellets can be dusty and volatile, many large compounderssubcontract production. However, although the production of these pellets is considered to be in21

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