A successful City of Sydney-funded feasibility study by Edge Environment, the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) and Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) has led to a new solution for problem waste streams produced by the commercial fit-out sector.

The study, which found that engineered timber is the largest component of strip out office waste, could soon see old, discarded furniture recycled into wood composite panels instead of being sent to landfill.

As part of the study, three different wood wastes from demolished offices’ furniture were recreated into a new generation of high-performance engineered wood-plastic composite. These panels were subjected to several tests, with results indicating they efficiently achieved an overall performance according to ISO 16893:2016 International Standards.

“We now have the knowledge we need to recycle wood-based office materials as they are removed and to transform it into new products for immediate reuse—without using any new wood or toxic resins,” professor Veena Sahajwalla, founding director of UNSW’s Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, says.

“The small-scale manufacturing model means waste furniture can be recycled locally, enabling cities to reprocess their office fit-out waste immediately and to redirect back into new economic opportunities.”

Sydney’s CBD office tenancies are typically renewed every seven to 10 years, and on average, refurbished every six years. Eighty per cent of the materials removed from these spaces—an estimated 55,000 tonnes— are sent to landfill.

Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore says the innovation would help the City reach its long-term target of zero waste to landfill.

“The City of Sydney and Edge Environment are proud to support the extraordinary research carried out by the UNSW SMaRT Centre,” Moore says.

“This is an excellent example of the power of collaboration towards our long-term objective of zero-waste to landfill.

“It’s great to see an industry begin to shift its thinking, where items once dismissed as landfill are now treated as a valuable resource.”

The full feasibility report may be found here: http://cdn.sydneybetterbuildings.com.au/assets/2017/09/SMaRT-Edge-Environment-feasibility-report.pdf