In 2018, the Victorian state’s Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) provided a $20,000 grant to part fund an investigation into the feasibility of recycling vinyl coated fabrics into roof tiles, one of the product concepts identified in Porject ReMake. The VersrTile project enabled an expert multidisciplinary team led by the Vinyl Council to design and test reprocessing techniques and form prototype roof tiles made from waste billboard skins. The project outcomes included testing the manufactured sample tiles, which found the tiles could resist weathering as required under applicable standards; however, further development is required on the tile prototypes to meet mechanical strength tests required for roof tiles.
A preliminary business case has been developed to understand the financial and production factors that will be required to manufacture these roof tiles economically and to assess their commercially feasibility. The significance of this project is that it identifies a potential reuse of a composite material into a durable, high volume product without the need to separate the polyester fibre from the vinyl.
A paper by one of the Vinyl Council's research partners, Dr. Sagar T Cholake, Research Associate, Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology, University of New South Wales, has been published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling Volume 136, September 2018 related to the Council's vinyl banner recycling project.
The paper, ‘Cost-effective and sustainable approach to transform end-of-life vinyl banner to value added product’ details a potential, new low-cost solution for waste PVC coated fabrics that does not require the separation of the PVC from the polyester fabric, overcoming a major barrier to recycling.
Testing by the UNSW team indicated that waste PVC-coated banners could be used to fabricate strong and durable composite panels for multiple indoor and outdoor applications and the paper shows one example of final product.
Life cycle analysis, conducted as part of the research, showed that replacing virgin PVC by recycled PVC from banner emits 78% less greenhouse gas emissions (kg CO2 equivalent).
Access this paper through the online journal here.
Imaginative end product concepts for using waste PVC advertising banners have been displayed at Waste Expo Australia, a business-to-business exhibition for waste, recycling and sustainability in Australia.
Roof shingles, pallet slip sheets, floor tiles and a design for a water storage/seat for garden drip irrigation were among the inspirational ideas presented by Monash University at the event, held from 11 to 12 October 2017 in Melbourne.
The designs were created after the Vinyl Council successfully obtained funding from the NSW Environment Trust to identify ways to reprocess advertising billboard skins and find potential end markets for the recyclate.
Currently around 500 tonnes of this material are disposed to landfill each year, as well as larger quantities of grain covers and truck tarpaulins totalling around 5,000 tonnes per year.
Commenting on the designs, Vinyl Council Chief Executive Sophi MacMillan said: “A series of workshops and forums with the Outdoor Media industry, Monash University, UNSW and manufacturers have delivered excellent results.
“As well as producing some fabulous ideas for recycled PVC, the concepts reflect perfectly the Waste Expo principles of ‘Where today’s waste becomes tomorrow’s future’.”
Other ideas for using the reprocessed material include a woven fabric for should bags, skateboard skins and sound attenuation barriers.
Finding solutions to reprocessing the waste PVC involved close collaboration between industry associations, manufacturers, industrial designers and chemical engineers.
“As a priority recycling area, we are very encouraged by these early results,” added Sophi. “A new reprocessing method has been identified, which is proceeding to international patent, and a low-cost reprocessing method has been identified for some suitable product, leading to 2 tonnes recycled material per month.”