One application area for WPC that is receiving increasing attention is for its use within “road furniture” in applications that could include: guard rails, sound barriers, traffic cones, mileage and sign posts, road lane markers, snow fences and crash barriers etc.
It is suggested that the relatively low-tech products related to highway infrastructure could provide better opportunities for utilization of significant volumes of biomass, especially since it can be locally harvested and potentially locally processed and locally used.
Thinking outside the box will lead to using wood composites in many current products. “The goal of sound barriers, for example, is to shield residents from highway noise, so they don’t necessarily have to be made of concrete,” he says.
To date not many of these products are manufactured from wood plastic composites but one exception to this is in the area of sound barriers which are produced by companies including Polyplank in Sweden and AVT in Korea.
Additionally, a range of street furniture products based on WPC utilizing recycled wood and recycled plastic is already available from Cossett Industries in South Australia and Repeat Signs in Lilydale, Australia. They offer such products as bollards, street signs, park and street benches, picnic benches, tree stakes, bin enclosures, parking aids, wheel stops, handrails and posts.
Other perhaps more exotic potential applications being developed include electric vehicle charging points made from 70% cellulosic wood fibre and 30% polypropylene being developed by in Germany, to protect the cables, power outlets and switch gear as a replacement for steel.
Muszynski, a professor of wood science at Oregon State University believes that “using local biomass to produce infrastructure-related products is a viable way of creating jobs and utilizing local resources while reducing reliance on non-renewable resources.” He is hopeful that a number of further commercial opportunities for WPC in road furniture applications will emerge after the completion of his study.