Inject a Little Green Design
By Design Engineering staffMaterials Sustainability sustainable design
Wood-plastic biocomposite recycles fibres, polymers for a range of applications
An emerging Canadian environmental technology company has introduced a suite of wood-plastic thermoplastic biocomposite compounds with the potential to outperform and “out-green” both wood and plastic alone.
Founded in 1997, JER Envirotech collaborated with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to develop environmentally friendly advanced biocomposite compounds using organic fibre byproducts and recycled plastics. The manufacturing process takes fibres like wood flour and rice hulls and alloys them with recycled polymers. The resulting material combines the durability of plastic with the appearance and workability of wood. The end result is a stronger, waterproof, warp-free material that is resistant to rot and mould and impenetrable to insects.
Potential applications run the gamut, says JER spokesperson Bill Hunnicutt, including the material used to make flooring, roofing, automotive parts, desks, boat hauls, toys and furniture. His rule of thumb: If you can make it with wood, you can make it with JER’s biocomposite.
“By being able to mold it and lathe it, you get a product that is very versatile,” he says. For instance, he says it could potential be used in automotive applications as a replacement for the plastic in injection-molded automotive parts such as interior door trim, wheel housings, load floors, steering wheels and drink holders. “We offer alternatives to black thermoplastic polyolefins (TPOs) and thermoplastic elastomers (TPE).”
Most recently, JER announced the availability of the Sprig Adventure Series of eco-friendly toys, released by Colorado-based Sprig Toys but manufactured in Canada to reduce environmental impacts. All vehicle and character bodies are molded using Sprigwood, a child-safe biocomposite developed in partnership with JER.
“Both JER and Sprig are happy to be providing an eco-friendly solution that uses non-toxic materials, and at the same time, reduces the carbon footprint,” JER CEO Edward Trueman said. In 2007, specialty toy makers and retailers who were offering green alternatives reported holiday sales increases up to 60 percent over previous years.