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Building homes of the future with vineyard waste

Researchers at The University of Melbourne have found a way to transform grapevine waste into particleboard amid suggestions this new recycled material could be a substitute for woodchip in the construction sector.

This is potentially great news for the worldwide wine industry which disposes of more than 42 million tonnes of cuttings every year, says University of Melbourne’s head of chemical engineering Amanda Ellis. She estimates that roughly 97 million cubic metres of woodchip was produced globally last year, mostly for flooring and furniture.

Substituting that with up to 25% of vine waste could significantly cut the import and transportation costs of using only pine while this hybrid building material passes all the required industry standards.

‘If you cut the vine prunings, you can dump them at the end of the road. [Then] they go off and get woodchipped and they’re dried to about 20% moisture,’ Ellis says. ‘Then you combine them with different resins and waxes and anti-flame retardants and compress it in a hot press at about 173 degrees Celsius for about five minutes and that seals it all in.’

A unique feature of vine waste is that it has low silica and mineral content. This means there will be ‘less wear and tear’ on construction tools if the industry choses to embrace this new application of the waste stream.

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