Development of a process to convert paper towel fibre waste destined for landfill into viable construction materials : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Engineering in Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. EMBARGOED until 29th August 2025.

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Massey University
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This thesis covers the continued development of a Precycle NZ product made from paper towel waste fibre. The initial product by Precycle NZ was a rigid board made from paper towels destined for landfill, with the idea of using it as a building product. This Master’s project covered the development of this board, which included the literature review where manufacturing methods, similar products, and standards and certifications like the Building Code were researched. Development was done on the manufacturing methods outlined by Precycle NZ through fine-tuning, optimising, and trialling adhesives from the literature. This development resulted in various panels, such as starch glue panels, casein panels, and regular panels of different sizes, before filtering some out based on structural failings internally, while others continued for testing. The tests included measuring the moisture content and observing the mould growth under different humidity, which was important to the Building Code’s internal moisture requirements, its insulative properties, which was vital as it had the potential to be used as an insulative panel, and mechanical properties where the compressive strength, bending strength, and impact resistance were tested, as structure and durability were outlined in the Building Code. The testing found that the tapioca starch glue–pulp panel was the best overall compared to the other manufactured pulp panels. However, this was not durable enough to justify using this as a structural panel compared to industry standards. It was found to have good insulative properties, though insufficient to replace industry insulation products or meet roof insulation requirements, and comparable mould growth to wood products like MDF. The panel should be considered non-load-bearing for future development and placement but can be paired with a load-bearing material. It can provide insulative properties as part of a prefabricated wall system and be converted into alternative uses like furniture or some other use case. Future development should cover other tests that still need to be performed, such as acoustic testing and breathability, to determine airflow. This will also involve scaling to larger panels by determining their cost-effectiveness and researching new manufacturing methods before scaling to a pilot plant.
Embargoed until 29th August 2025