Closing the loop on MDF

Article by Staff Writer

THAT old IKEA flatpack furniture that you no longer want could soon be used to make more of the same now that a UK company has claimed a breakthrough in the development of the world’s first MDF recycling process.

MDF Recovery says that it has successfully concluded a proof-of-concept trial for a commercially-viable process to recycle wood fibre from waste MDF. The world produces some 50m t/y of MDF – or medium density fibreboard – primarily for use in furniture. It is created from wood fibres mixed with resin and wax pressed into flat sheets but with no current recycling routes, waste MDF is currently either incinerated or buried in landfill.

MDF Recovery cofounder Craig Bartlett told The Chemical Engineer that the company’s new process does not use chemicals to treat waste MDF. It is instead wetted and then placed in a tank and treated at atmospheric pressure using ohmic heating, which Bartlett describes as a highly-efficient electrical system.

“The main benefits of using ohmic heating are that it gives a homogenous heating profile in the process and facilitates a rapid acceleration of water into the board and therefore helps in the breakdown of the resin bonds.”

MDF Recovery has proved the process at a rate of 100 kg/h of dry material and has already had interest from MDF manufacturers who have visited to see the process. Bartlett is confident the process can and will be scaled up for commercial use.

“Our technology can be retro-fitted or designed into new plants and offers a robust solution for reworking waste and increasing the yield at the MDF manufacturing facility. Zero waste production is now a real possibility. The financial payback is dependent on the size of MDF plant but in larger plants is expected within 18 months,” said Bartlett.

“Initially they will treat their own waste generated on site. But there’s nothing technically that would stop them taking on your IKEA cabinet and converting that back [into raw feedstock for new products] as well.”

“The recycling process we have developed is a genuine world first,” he said.

The company estimates that the process could recycle as much as 30,000–60,000 t/y of MDF waste in the UK and almost 3m t/y globally.

Article by Staff Writer

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