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Building Material from Plastic Waste
August 2, 2010   
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Two Polish researchers have developed a method to recycle plastic waste that clogs up landfills and pollutes the environment. This waste can now be reused in the manufacture of composite boards used in construction.

The technology was developed by Zbigniew Paluchiewicz and Leszek Danecki, researchers at the Katowice branch of the Warsaw-based Institute of Mechanized Construction and Rock Mining. The method won a silver medal at the Brussels Innova innovation fair last year, and also received an award from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education earlier this year.

Diverse plastic waste products such as polyurethane, polystyrene and certain types of waste paper can be used to produce composite boards for the construction and furniture industries, the researchers say. This waste can be recycled to be used as construction boards and thermal insulators.

The production process uses mostly waste polyurethane foam and thermoplastics shredded to grains with a diameter of 2-8 mm. These are mixed with other components to provide the necessary technological parameters for the basic mixture and the finished boards. The use of various additives and variations in the production process makes it possible to obtain materials with diverse properties, for example increased fire or humidity resistance, lower density or thermal conductivity.

The boards are formed from this basic mixture and later cold-pressed on a mechanical press, the researchers say. The next step consists of heat pressing them in a hydraulic segment press. Then the boards are seasoned in order to avoid surface deformities. The last step is based on cutting them to the correct size.

According to Paluchiewicz, the boards can find multiple uses in the construction sector as a replacement for or alongside more classical products such as particle board, fiberboard or in some cases boards made from styrofoam or polyurethane foam. Insulation boards made with this technology can be used for partition walls or insulating floors, ceilings or foundations, Paluchiewicz says.

“These boards can be also be coated with different materials such as veneer, plywood, plastics, aluminum foil, polyester laminates or wallpaper,” Paluchiewicz says. “This increases the scope of their possible technological and decorative uses.”

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