Wood furniture ends up in landfills or is incinerated. After plastics are separated from metal and electronic components, they are crushed and milled locally, and then usually delivered for final recycling outside Europe. A solution is needed that is capable of tackling the challenge of recycling plastics and wood waste like particle plates without combusting them. What is more, mixing such materials can potentially produce a new type of composite material. To meet this need, the EU-funded FURNITREUSE project blended crushed particle boards and plastics such as ABS in a strictly controlled process by deploying an innovative heating technique to obtain a new type of composite material. The FURNITREUSE team evaluated the process of combining fragmented wooden items and polymers. This was done to assess the technique’s impact on the mechanical and physical characteristics of the resulting composite material. Project partners designed and then integrated the main parts and subsystems into a prototype recycling machine. They then tested overall performance and carried out special measurements to check safety. Once proposed improvements were implemented, validation demonstrated that the prototype is ready to produce the composite material. Some material samples were manufactured and tested to establish the composite’s properties and usefulness. Aided by the use of microwave heating, the prototype can process non-recyclable waste materials such as shredded chip boards commonly found in used office and domestic furniture, other wood-based products, and unsorted and unmarked plastics. Using wood and plastic to form a composite material is economical. In addition, the material can be recycled again when an item reaches its end of life. The technology is environment friendly since no chemical compounds need to be added to activate and control the device. Moreover, it does not produce any waste and uses energy in an efficient way. The FURNITREUSE innovation can benefit European SMEs that recycle various unwanted wood and plastic waste. Ultimately, it will change recycling practices, thus generating additional revenue streams for SMEs engaged in the recycling industry.
Recycling, wood, plastic, composite material, FURNITREUSE