Treasure from trash

Wood and plastic recycling project for North Queensland

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New venture: QPlas founding director Sandra Richards at her African mahogany plantation near Rollingstone. Picture: Jessica Johnston.

New venture: QPlas founding director Sandra Richards at her African mahogany plantation near Rollingstone. Picture: Jessica Johnston.

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Hardwood waste and agricultural plastic will be recycled to create building materials in an exciting new initiative for North Queensland.

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HARDWOOD waste and agricultural plastic will be recycled to create building materials in an exciting new initiative for North Queensland.

A manufacturing facility will be established at either the Burdekin or Townsville, with talks ongoing to secure a site.

Waste hardwood from African mahogany plantations from Ingham to the Burdekin will be combined with recycled agricultural plastics from the region to make long-lasting wood plastic composite products.

African mahogany plantation owner and QPlas founding director Sandra Richards said the project was the first of its kind in Queensland.

She said machinery sourced from Victoria, the only of its kind in Australia, would be trucked to North Queensland this month with trials to be undertaken in February and March.

The facility should be operational at the end of March, creating about 20 full-time jobs for locals.

Mrs Richards said the project was at least 18 months in the making and she was excited it was finally going ahead.

"There is a lot of agricultural plastic in the Burdekin area, particularly down to Bowen and Gumlu, with growers using a large amount of plastic in the production of fruit and vegetables, and small crops," Mrs Richards said.

"It is often put in landfill or burned; we hope to recycle 5000 tonnes of waste agricultural plastic per year, mixed with a similar amount of hardwood residue and the heads of trees to produce a wide range of products.

"These are waterproof, fireproof, pest and rot resistant, long-lasting, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, which is a win-win for the Great Barrier Reef."

Mrs Richards said products that could be manufactured from the waste include sound walls, pallet boards, oyster beds, fencing and decking.

"This is a first for Queensland, and the large plant we're purchasing is the only one in Australia, so we've been really lucky to be able to get it."

Mrs Richards said about 30 African mahogany growers in the region had been waiting for a solution to the waste generated, including the heads of trees and residue, before harvesting.

The growers have found a market for the wood in China, and an Australian company working on a large-scale redevelopment in Townsville has also expressed an interest in using plantation timber in their constructions.

Mrs Richards said they hoped to secure a site, ideally on the Burdekin, for the manufacturing facility this week.

"It's absolutely a local project, and a really good one for the area and the environment."

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