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

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

lem. Sorbilite

lem. Sorbilite reportedly has developed a compression molding process that can accommodatemixed plastics, even those with different melt points. Melt points, however, should be in therange of 180 degrees Celsius or less. Plastics with higher melt points can be incorporated in themix, but then they function primarily as filler materials.Acceptable plastics include polystyrene (packing material), some forms of polypropylene(automobile battery cases or ketchup bottles), and polyethylene (milk bottles). Polyethylene terephthalate(beverage bottles) is reportedly not acceptable in the Sorbilite process because of itshigh melt point.Also, the literature suggests that another factor limiting the use of some plastics has beenthe need to avoid undesirable thermoplastic products (8). Post-consumer recycled plastics can becontaminated with leftover product contained in bottles and with metal. While the recycled plasticscan often be cleaned, this adds to their cost.Further, since wood-plastic composites are not immune to fire, the resulting smoke maybe cause for concern if the polymer in the composite is PVC, which has recently come under fireby environmental groups because it releases chlorinated organic compounds when burned. Againhowever, the Sorbilite Company claims that its process can accommodate even contaminatedpolymers. (Sorbilite does not use PVC.) At the time of this investigation, Sorbilite did not havean installation in the United States that was producing Plastron (Sorbilite’s product from recycledplastic and wood), but it does have an installation in India and a number of installationspending.Sorbilite’s compression molding process is limited to a maximum product thickness ofabout one inch, which limits potential applications. Its target market is molded panel furnitureproducts. However, because this process apparently holds so much potential for the use of abroad range of wood wastes and plastics, an article on its manufacture, as well as other data onits manufacturing process, are included in Appendix K.VIII. RESEARCH NEEDSThere are multitudes of research needs relative to wood-plastic composite products. Someof these stem from the need to develop products from recycled materials to extend our wood resourcesand to reduce the quantity of materials ending up in landfills. Also, products and utilizationresearch are critical elements in sustainable forestry. Currently underused wood species arefilling up our forests and inhibiting the practice of good forestry. Products that can be made fromthese underused materials and their related markets must be identified and developed in order tostimulate the economical removal of these materials from the forest. Product development involvesunderstanding of the production and raw material factors and their interrelationships,which influence the ultimate performance characteristics of the product. Many research needshave come to light as a result of this project, including the investigation of the following:1) Product cost assessment for low-investment composite manufacturing systems2) In-depth assessments of the markets for alternative products3) Development of business plans for products/businesses4) Ways to improve the extruding/production ability of composites that use long fiberstrands rather than wood flour particles40

5) Relationship between performance properties of composite products and the geometry/size/speciesrelationship of the wood particle6) Moisture content and drying technology7) Documentation and enhancement of water resistance, UV resistance, and color stabilityof composites8) Methods of fiberizing wood (hammermill, disc cutters, flakers) and evaluation ofeconomics and technology for various methods9) Alternative methods of matting or otherwise preparing wood materials prior topressing, extruding, or molding, including possible application of needle feltingtechnology and multilayering with other materials or particle sizes10) Technologies which would allow a wider range of recycled plastics to be combinedwith wood considering:- wood-plastic-moisture relationships and problems- ways to reduce the possible cellulosic degradation of the wood materials dueto the high heat required to melt some plastic materials in the composite'smanufacturing process. Chemical companies need to develop stabilizers forelevated temperatures and longer dwell times (especially important for moldinglarger parts such as pallets).11) Better understand internal and external lubricants and their cost/benefit relationships12) Ways to improve the decay resistance, fire retardancy, strength and other physicalproperties of wood-plastic lumber and related costs13) Technologies to produce wood-plastic pellets or other feedstocks that use fiberizedwood in combination with recycled plastics14) Development of more effective blowing agents to reduce part weight and cost15) Development of performance criteria or standards for wood-filled plastics to findbroader use in consumer goods like home electronics16) Assessment and improvement of VOC’s and emission properties17) Better characterization of long-term structural performance in construction, especiallylong-term creep (deformation or displacement under load). This data is especiallyimportant for building code approval, and architectural design considerations.18) Understand the chemistry of improving:- the interfacial adhesion of the wood-thermoplastic composites including thecompatibility of wood fiber which is polar with some non-polar thermoplastics,considering both technical and economic factors (note: one existing technologyuses small amounts of thermosetting resins to improve product properties)- the polymer matrix41

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