The world’s first ever technology to recycle MDF waste has moved a step closer to reality. MDF Recovery has successfully concluded proof of concept trials to develop a commercially viable process to recover wood fibre from waste MDF.

It is the culmination of more than six years’ research and development to create a technology which will offer the first alternative to the use of landfill or burning to dispose of MDF. Britain, alone, disposes of around 350,000 tonnes of MDF each year.

MDF Recovery co-founder and managing director, Craig Bartlett

The solution generates a new raw material source for the wood/natural fibre industry that reduces the demand on standing forests. The recovered fibre is of the same high quality as virgin wood fibre and provides feedstock to the manufacturers of MDF board, insulation products and horticultural growing products.

Co-founder and managing director Craig Bartlett is now ready to take the proprietary technology to the commercial market. 

Craig, who established MDF Recovery in 2009, says:

“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. 

“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.

“Our 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. Zero waste production is now a real possibility. The financial payback is dependent on the size of MDF plant but in larger plants is expected within 18 months.

“The technology can also process industrial and commercial forms of MDF waste, allowing manufacturers to take back material from their customers – a so called ‘closed loop’ solution.” This has been particularly attractive to the retail sector which utilises significant amounts of MDF in shopfittings.

MDF – medium density fibreboard – was first devised in the 1970s and today more than 50million tons are produced globally every year, servicing the furniture, construction and DIY markets. 

Prominent markets outside of the UK include Continental Europe, USA, Russia, Brazil and China. Demand is increasing in Eastern Europe and Asia.

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

Before establishing MDF Recovery with co-founder Jim New, Craig worked as head of research and consultancy at the UK Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), developing a wide range of technological solutions in partnership with industry and academia.

MDF Recovery has set up an advisory panel to help it commercialise the company’s technology.

The panel includes Geoff Rhodes, pictured above, widely recognised for his pioneering work in the timber industry, having driven the introduction of Medite MDF from the US into Britain before spending most of his career expanding the use of MDF in the UK and internationally.

He is a former president of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), the European Association of MDF Manufacturers (EMB) and the Fibre Building Board Federation (FIDOR).

Other advisory panel members include Dr Knut Kappenberg, Dr Rob Elias and Ray Howard.

Knut has over 20 years’ experience within R&D, innovation management and technology transfer roles including seven years as global research and development manager at Sonae Industria, one of the largest global manufacturers of wood-based panel products.

Rob Elias is the director of the BioComposites Centre (BC) at Bangor University. The centre was established in 1989 and is focused on the translation of applied science into commercial opportunity. It has been at the forefront of research, development and the commercial application of bio-based alternatives to synthetic materials in manufacturing and industry. He is also the chair of the International Panel Products Symposium.

Ray is a businessman with over 40 years’ experience, mainly within manufacturing and related sectors including MDF. He has managed companies with turnovers ranging from £10m to £150m and is a specialist in strategic growth and business transformation.

The business has to date been funded via a mix of UK and Welsh Government, Angel investor and industrial funding.

“The technology can process industrial and commercial forms of MDF waste, allowing manufacturers to take back material from their customers – a so called ‘closed loop’ solution.”

Craig Bartlett