A supplement for timber could come from old telephone books and plastic
milk containers, according to CSIRO researchers.
CSIRO project leader Dr Bob Coutts says that industrial-scale trials have begun with a paper/plastic product and it shows promise of being suitable for some applications that currently use timber.
"Basically the ingredients are any waste thermoplastic material and waste paper," says Dr Coutts.
"The paper, which accounts for up to 60% of the timber substitute material, provides stiffness and counters the flexibility of the plastic.
"The timber supplement can be twice as strong and three times as stiff as the polymers from which it is made and is tough enough to be suitable for a multitude of applications which in the past have utilised timber - flat sheets and mouldings for example."
The material is made using extrusion processing techniques. It can be processed into a wide range of cross-sections, and has the advantages of water repellency and being defect-free compared with timber. It can also be recycled into new products.
CSIROs involvement in this project is part of a program on composite materials prepared from wood-based materials, including wastes.
It is also the result of collaboration between CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products and Equinox Research and Development Pty Ltd, which follows from joint work that resulted in "Light and Easy TM Cat Litter" a product also made from out-of-date telephone books.