Project details | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Project details

Machinery picking up logs

Project Objective

The Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life at the University of the Sunshine Coast recently initiated a cooperative project with Forest and Wood Products Australia, supported by a consortium of timber producers, chemical suppliers and timber users to identify alternative pathways for treated timber and EWP’s.

Our overall goal is to identify environmentally and economically sound opportunities for reuse/recycling treated timber and EWP’s.

Preservative-treated timbers and wood-based composites have low embodied carbon and renewability, but become problematic at end-of-life because of the biocides and resins they contain.

Many authorities require these materials be transported under stringent regulations, restrict disposal in landfills and impose higher disposal costs. These issues are driving timber users to examine alternative materials such as steel or plastic that have much higher overall environmental footprints.

However, a number of potential strategies for reuse/recycling of treated timber and composites could markedly reduce volumes going to landfill while providing novel products. These strategies would fit well within the growing concept of the circular economy.

The circular economy has many aspects, but essentially it tries to ensure that materials are designed for long service life with minimal environmental impact and that they can be repurposed at their end-of-life. Timber should be an ideal candidate for the circular economy, but there are many unknowns in relation to repurposing chemically treated materials.

Truck with wooden logs
Wooden frames

What we will do

  1. Establish current volumes, forecast future volumes and determine geographic distribution of the different treated timber/EWP’s entering the waste stream 
  2. Assess condition of material in terms of residual chemicals and potential for reuse/repurposing 
  3. Identify local, state and federal regulatory hurdles that affect transport and reuse options 
  4. Develop models to estimate transport costs for specific products across the country 
  5. Hold a Reuse Strategies Scoping and Assessment Summit with invited international experts to identify the most appropriate reuse/recycling strategies based on global experiences but framed in an Australian context. 
  6. Develop a program that uses material characteristics, volumes, and location to identify the most attractive reuse options for a given treated timber/EWP in a specific geographic area.  
  7. Develop a small-scale reuse/recycling program with one treated timber/EWP product to assess feasibility of the approach and explore the logistical hurdles 

What we will deliver

  1. What treated timber/EWP materials are being disposed of across the country by location 
  2. The condition of the treated timber/EWP materials in terms of reuse/recycling 
  3. The most appropriate reuse/recycling options by product and location 
  4. Whether a “take back” program is feasible with at least one treated wood product.  

For more information or to participate in the project, contact Professor Tripti Singh.