ModWood: Recycled & Renewable “Timber”
What do you get when you cross a milk bottle with a pine tree? You get ModWood, a wood plastic composite (WPC) containing 90% recycled and recovered content.
Each linear metre of ModWood contains the plastic from 35 milk bottles. The plastic comes in the form of flakes from shredded bottles that have been cleaned and sorted to ModWood’s specifications. The other key component is wood flour made by grinding up the shavings that result from processing plantation-grown pine trees. Aside from diverting plastic from landfill, ModWood helps to reduce pressure on native forests. It also provides long term storage of the carbon contained in the wood component that constitutes over half of the weight of the product. In contrast, other uses for pine shaving such as pet litter see the carbon quickly returned to the atmosphere.
James Grandison, ModWood’s Marketing Development Manager, identifies three main reasons why buyers choose ModWood. One is its low maintenance. ModWood does not require painting or staining throughout its lifetime. Secondly, the product is more durable than most timbers. It won’t rot and, when installed correctly, it doesn’t warp, crack or splinter. The third attraction is its environmental credentials, which extend to the product itself being recyclable.
A number of builders are enthusiasts for ModWood, with architects and specifiers also being important decision makers when it comes to choosing the product. The cost of ModWood is comparable to Australian-grown hardwood. However, decking boards are usually a small component of the overall cost of building a deck, and the longevity of the product and lack of maintenance mean that it may be the lower-cost option in the long run.
ModWood was first produced in Australia in 2000 and the product has undergone continuous development. In 2008 the introduction of a wood grain finish created a more wood-like appearance that appealed to the market and the full range now carries the grain pattern. Aside from adding new colours and dimensions to the product range ModWood implements new developments in the chemistry and manufacture as they become available.
It should be remembered that ModWood isn’t wood. Its physical structure and characteristics are different and one consequence of this is that it isn’t suitable for structural applications. The key to the successful use of ModWood is to match it to the applications that benefit the most from its unique characteristics.
Room for growth
The decking and screening market is still dominated by traditional timber products, but several issues may lead more consumers to consider the ModWood alternative. Forests are becoming more valued for their role in combating climate change, and improved stewardship is aimed at reducing unsustainable logging practices. As rich countries ‘outsource’ their carbon offsets by paying poor countries to preserve their forests, the reduction in tropical hardwood supply is likely to increase timber costs.
With around one million hectares of pine plantations in Australia there will be plenty of pine shavings in the future. And with no shortage of used milk bottles on the horizon, it looks like ModWood is well positioned to gain an ever-increasing share of its market.
All images: Modwood