Replacing non-renewable materials with biobased wood composites along Oregon’s highways
Research for sustainable bio-composites may have environmental and economic impacts.
Travelers along Oregon’s scenic highways may gaze out their car windows and see lush forests, clear rivers, and rich farmlands. Professor Lech Muszyński of OSU’s Forest Research Laboratory sees all that and more, such as new jobs based on renewable materials and a market for the woody biomass produced from forest thinning for fire prevention.
Muszyński is researching the use of wood-plastics composites in many common products, including those found along Oregon’s roads and highways. Snow fences, traffic signs, mile posts, guardrails, sound barriers, dividers, and even bright orange traffic cones are currently made from non-renewable resources. Wood-plastic composites containing up to 70 percent biomass instead of petroleum-based plastics may eventually be used to manufacture all of these products.
The research project has attracted interest not only from Oregon Department of Transportation’s Sustainability Coordinator, but from rural community leaders because it may open the window to new employment opportunities in the sustainable wood composites industry.