A-plast makes their products from sawdust, rice hulls and vegetable oil. The material, called WPC, or wood plastic composites, contains 70 percent recycled wood. It combines the lightness and robustness of plastic with the touch and feel of wooden surfaces.
”Everybody in the plastics industry is affected by the debate over littering and microplastics accumulating in the ocean. The problems are caused primarily by disposable, non-recyclable items, and we don’t have any such goods in our product portfolio. We want our products to last and our customer relationsships to be long term”, says Alexander Blad, CEO of A-plast AB.
”We have strong faith in products with increasing amounts of biobased and recycled materials. We have good experience in manufacturing environment-friendly composites, and the market is growing quickly”.
Sawdust, rice hulls, salt and vegetable oil
”WPC is an acronym for Wood Plastic Composite, and it is made mainly from plastics and vegetable fibers. The fibers work both as filler and reinforcement. You can use wood fibers from sawdust or other forestry residue, and many other vegetable materials have similar properties too: rice hulls, flax and hemp, for example”, Alexander Blad says. ”We began working with WPC a couple of years ago, and we are now operating an entire WPC production line with custom-built machinery”.
”Sawdust, rice hulls, salt, vegetable oil and plastics may sound like an unconventional food recipe, but one of the plastic products we have developed is made from the combination of these materials. About 70 percent of the material consists of recycled wood, which gives the product certain properties that many consumers appreciate. It has the touch and feel of wood, but it doesn’t rot and does not require painting or maintenance. It is light, flame-retardant and moisture-resistant. If you build a WPC jetty, it will last for a long time”, Alexander continues.
A growing market
With growing climate change awareness and ambitions to replace fossil resources, biobased and recycled raw materials have attracted more interest. Many industries are looking to become more resource efficient and decrease their waste volumes. This has sparked development of resource-efficient materials – not least in the forest industry, where demand for traditional products such as printing paper has been falling. Since bio composites and wood plastic composites can make use of pulp industry residues, they are interesting new applications.
In a study from a couple of years back, the German Nova-Institut für Ökologi und Innovation showed that the global annual WPC production increased from 50 000 tonnes in 1997 to almost 2.5 million tonnes in 2012. Nevertheless, the product development is still in its infancy, and new companies can still compete in the market.
”This kind of product has a big market. WPC is an excellent choice for flooring, decking, benches, outdoor furniture, walls and planters, to name a few examples. We are also looking at environmental adaptations of our traditional products. A-plast produces 50 000 snow poles every year: the red poles that are placed along the roads in winter to mark the road for the snowplough. By adding UV protection, we have doubled the lifespan of the poles from two years to four. Good for the environment, good for the customer”, Alexander Blad says.
The article was published in May 2018.