Sustainable Alternatives to Particleboard

While particleboard has been a very common building material since the 1960s, found in shelves, furniture, cabinetry, tabletop makeup, doors, wall and floor paneling, it is a problematic material due to the use of one ingredient. Formaldehyde resin is what binds the wood-based fibers together. Although formaldehyde is still in common use, especially for building materials, it is a known carcinogen. New particleboard presents the biggest health concern, making installation of new materials the most dangerous. As the material ages, any formaldehyde gas emissions are reduced, but cutting it can release toxic dust into the air. Sustainable alternatives to particleboard are in use, though, that replace the formaldehyde resin with polyurethane resin. The alternative materials are both safer when new and pose less of a long-term health risk. 

Sustainable Alternatives to Particleboard

There are 3 notable alternatives to particleboard that do not use the traditional formaldehyde resin to bind the material. They instead use polyurethane resin to bind agricultural byproducts, producing a similar product with none of the environmental impact. The products are Environ Biocomposite board, Woodstalk from Dow Chemical and PrimeBoard. 

1. Environ Biocomposite Board

Unlike particleboard, Environ biocomposite board is made from polyurethane resin that binds cellulose fibers. The building material is almost twice as hard as oak, yet it is made from recycled newsprint and soybean wastes. Other Environ building boards are comprised of sunflower hulls and wheat straw. Their long life of up to 150 years backs up their claim of being green. Their sustainability stems from the fact that the materials used in the manufacture of the biocomposite board are grown in a short time. They do not require the clear cutting of forests for materials to be pressed into boards. Beyond that, the resin used to bind the pre-consumer waste product fibers does not emit any toxic gases. 

2. Dow “Woodstalk”

Instead of wood-based materials that, as with particleboard, requires harvested wood which is an unsustainable resource, Woodstalk is comprised of wheat straw. Wheat straw is annually renewable and thus is considered a sustainable product. Like Environ biocomposite,  Dow Chemical binds the wheat straw fibers with polyurethane resin. Woodstalk has many conventional building uses, from furniture to countertops. It is moisture resistant, lightweight and very strong. In addition to being produced from a sustainable resource, using the wheat straw for the manufacture of Woodstalk eliminates the need to burn it. This has the secondarily beneficial effect of reducing COâ‚‚ emissions, while it also adds to farmers’ revenue after a harvest. 

3. PrimeBoard

The third alternative to particleboard also uses polyurethane resin binder as opposed to formaldehyde. Agricultural fiber is the primary ingredient in this building product. The bulk of this fiber is wheat byproduct. Most waste left over from wheat production is burned. PrimeBoard, like Dow’s Woodstalk, uses the wheat straw to make a biodegradable, sustainable alternative to particleboard. In addition to the sustainable materials used and the environmentally-friendly production process, PrimeBoard may be cut to size for its customers, cutting down on waste. 

If you look into it, you can find sustainable alternatives to particleboard, a wood-based building material both wasteful and harmful. Through the use of recycled waste products and polyurethane resins, alternatives to particleboard cut down on both carbon dioxide emissions and reduce the dependency on unsustainable resources such as timber.