New technology recovers wood fibre from MDF, a world first

Co-founder and managing director of MDF Recovery Craig Bartlett

A UK company has discovered how to recover wood fibre from waste MDF, in what is claimed to be the world’s first ever technology to recycle MDF waste.

The solution generates new raw material for the wood-based fibre industry, reducing pressure to cut down standing forests. The recovered fibre is of the same high quality as virgin wood fibre and provides feedstock to manufacturers of MDF board, insulation products and horticultural growing products.

Co-founder and managing director of MDF Recovery Craig Bartlett said the concept trials have proven to be commercially viable, after more than six years of research and development.

Having worked in R&D in the UK furniture and timber sectors for over 10 years–including a role as Head of Research & Consultancy at the UK Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA)–Bartlett saw that the lack of effective recycling for MDF was a major failing in these industries. He was involved in several projects that sought a solution, but when none worked out, he established MDF Recovery in 2009 with a partner, Jim New, to pursue his idea. 

“The recycling process we have developed is a genuine world first. There is no other environmentally friendly alternative to the use of landfill or burning to dispose of MDF waste,” he said.

Zero waste production

The 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. The financial payback is dependent on the size of MDF plant but in larger plants, it is expected within 18 months. It can also process industrial and commercial forms of MDF waste, allowing manufacturers to take back material from their customers. This has been particularly attractive to the retail sector which utilises significant amounts of MDF in shop fittings.

The technology also works well for particleboard.

Bartlett added, “We have already begun discussions with a number of leading companies and organisations operating in the MDF production and waste industries and look forward to progressing these during the early part of 2017.”

Asia is an important and growing market for panel board manufacture and is a key component in MDF Recovery’s commercialisation strategy. The company is already in discussion with some MDF manufacturing businesses in Asia and will continue to expand this network. The technology will be made available in the region either through direct partnership or by licensing. Other prominent markets outside of the UK include Continental Europe, USA, Russia and Brazil.

It is estimated that between 30,000 and 60,000 tonnes of MDF waste could be recycled by MDF Recovery each year in the UK and almost three million tonnes globally. Britain alone disposes of around 350,000 tonnes of MDF each year.