SAN FRANCISCO (May 20, 9:30 a.m. EDT) — Someday, the headliner on your car could be made from old cardboard boxes infused with a little polypropylene, then thermoformed, according to a presentation at Antec 2002 in San Francisco.
More research is needed — test samples were too dry to draw well under pressure forming — but the technology could be a way to consume landfill-clogging paperboard, said Tom Mase, director of Michigan State University's advanced materials engineering experiment station.
Researchers mixed paperboard with finely powdered PP in a slurry, in a continuous process. The work was done at MSU's Composite Materials and Structures Center in East Lansing, Mich.
Paperboard — the stuff used to make cardboard boxes — takes up a huge amount of space in landfills. As a recycling feedstock, it is cheap, at about 2 cents a pound.
The UM researchers limited the amount of PP to 20-30 percent by weight, to cut down on the plastic, the most expensive ingredient. But Mase said more PP would make a better part.
The paperboard/plastic sheet could be placed on rolls, then thermoformed. Mase said the low-price sheet could work on nonstructural parts covered with fabric or carpeting, such as the automotive headliner.