Researchers recycling grapevine waste into particleboard for sustainable buildings


The houses of the future could be built with a sustainable building material made from grapevine waste, if Victorian scientists have their way.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne are taking grapevine waste and turning them into particle board, which is a staple of the construction industry.

University of Melbourne’s head of Chemical Engineering Amanda Ellis said grapevine cuttings obtained from pruning the plant were a major source of agriculture crop waste.

She said globally the wine industry disposed of about 42 million tonnes of cuttings each year.

“When you’re looking at grapevines, the waste would be thrown on the farm and be buried or burnt, and that has greenhouse effects when it starts to break down.”

Professor Amanda Ellis
Professor Amanda Ellis said global demand for particleboard is increasing rapidly.(Supplied: University of Melbourne)

Grapevine replacing woodchip

Professor Ellis said the grapevine waste could be used to replace the pine chip in particle board, which would help minimise import and transportation costs.

“If you cut the prunings, you can dump them at the end of the road. Pick them up and they go off and get woodchipped and then they’re dried to about 20 per cent moisture,” she said.

“It’s literally a replacement of … woodchip, but now you’re using grapevine chip.”

Two pieces of particleboard
The particleboard on the right is made from grapevines.(Supplied: University of Melbourne)

According to a University of Melbourne report, particle board is one of the most highly produced construction materials.

Professor Ellis said in 2018 about 97 million cubic metres of woodchip was produced globally.

“We import a lot of the woodchip from China, and that has not only environmental impacts with shipping but transportation,” she said.

Less stress on building tools

Professor Ellis said the construction industry also stood to benefit because of the mineral makeup of the grapevine chip.

“This is important compared to other bio waste materials like straw or oat hulls because having the lower silica means there’s less grit in the board.

“So when builders are machining the board you don’t get as much wear and tear on the tools that you’re using.”

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