Materials matter… so what are the alternatives to MDF?

John Caswell

Design Engineer

Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) is everywhere and because it’s cheap, smooth, and relatively strong it’s become the go-to sheet material for shop fixtures and furniture.

In the UK 1 million tons of MDF is used every year, along with 13 million in Europe and 75 million tons worldwide. The problem with it is that it’s hard to recycle (although not impossible) often bonded to other difficult to recycle materials and more worryingly it can omit formaldehyde, a recognised carcinogen when cut. Although zero formaldehyde varieties are available, let’s take a look at 3 less harmful and more sustainable alternatives.

Ecoboard / Novo Base

These straw based sheet materials are a great alternative to MDF. Not only 100% biodegradable and formaldehyde-free but Ecoboard actually has a negative carbon footprint!

Richlite / PaperStone

These sheet materials are made from recycled paper and a non-petroleum resin. They are both Rainforest Alliance and FSC certified and are far more durable than MDF allowing them to be used externally for cladding.

EKOply / Ecoplastic Sheet

These are two plastic sheet materials both made from 100% waste plastic. They can be cut and worked like traditional timber sheets but will last longer in external conditions and are fully recyclable at end-of-life.

There is of course a lot more to sustainable design than material selection. Manufacturing processes, efficiency of material use and ease of recyclability all add to it, but it’s a good idea to start with a material that has good sustainability credentials. Now all you need to do is convince people to start using them.

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