Invasive and small-diameter species have become more prevalent, creating numerous environmental and ecological problems. One potential method to control and eliminate invasive species and thereby promote natural rangeland restoration is developing new, value-added uses for them. Saltcedar (Tamarisk ramosissima) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) were investigated for use as fillers in wood–plastic composites (WPCs). The chemical composition and thermal stability of wood flours from both invasive species were compared with those of commercial pine wood flour. The wood flours were compounded with plastic and additives, and the viscosities of the composite melts containing the different species were compared. Composites produced from the compounded material by profile extrusion and injection molding were evaluated for mechanical performance, appearance, and weatherability. Saltcedar wood flour had the most minerals and water soluble extractives, which resulted in the lowest thermal stability and the lowest melt viscosity when compounded with high-density polyethylene. Injection-molded WPCs made from saltcedar or juniper were both considerably darker than those made with pine but performed similarly in accelerated weathering tests. Their mechanical properties were generally lower than those of the composites made from pine, but appropriate application selection and proper design could help compensate. Extruded WPCs were successfully made with each of the species. Producing WPCs from these composites appears technically feasible, although continued formulation development and durability evaluation are needed so that informed decisions regarding applications can be made. Economically feasible applications that use the advantageous properties of these species and that can tolerate or address the less desirable ones need to be identified and demonstrated.
Clemons, Craig; Stark, Nicole. 2007. Use of saltcedar and Utah juniper as fillers in wood–plastic composites. Research Paper FPL-RP-641. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 17 pages