“99% of each board we make is waste product; our input materials have no natural home and can’t be recycled through traditional recycling measures,” says saveBOARD Co-Founder and CEO, Paul Charteris.
For the last 10 months, Paul and his team have been providing the New Zealand market with low-carbon, high-performance building materials made from upcycled waste packaging. “About 4 years ago, I was doing some work with Fonterra to explore how they could repurpose the waste from their Tetra Pak products. They identified some upcycling technology out of the US and were looking for someone to bring it to New Zealand so they could support it. I went to visit one of the upcycling plants in Des Moines, Iowa in 2018 to see for myself. From there, a journey began of importing, testing, due diligence, compliance and certification.” Despite some COVID-related launch delays, saveBOARD now supplies the New Zealand building industry with the support of Freightways, Tetra Pak and Closed Loop as cornerstone partners.
Unlike plywood, saveBOARD’s composite products are made without any added adhesives, Paul says, as they use the soft plastics in their waste inputs as a binder. “It’s a bit like a recipe, where we’ve found the right combination of heat, pressure and time to bind the adhesive waste with the fibrous waste and create a range of final products.” These manufacturing ‘recipes’ enable Paul’s team to ensure product consistency which reliably meets the performance characteristics that they expect from each board. “In every building there are a lot of bracing elements and, from a performance perspective, saveBOARD is just about the highest in the market in terms of bracing capacity when compared with plasterboard or ply. It is very robust and has excellent impact resistance which is particularly applicable for high-use spaces like student housing.”
saveBOARD is also working hard to make other aspects of the business circular, Paul says, with a range of schemes to further improve the sustainable outcomes of their builds. “Not only do we upcycle consumer and commercial waste products, but we’ve created systems to take any offcuts back, shred them and repurpose them into new boards. We’ve set up 32 collection points around the country for people to drop those off. We also use locally collected waste to create locally used materials, generally within about a 100km radius, with no water or additives required. From a carbon footprint perspective, this gives us about an 80% reduction on using imported plasterboard.”
Product applications include show rooms, public spaces, feature walls and residential builds, Paul says. “We do everything from Mum and Dad residential right through to institutional. We’re growing and we always want to expand our impact and do more. Our success in New Zealand has enabled us to spin up operations in Australia, where we’ll be opening a plant in Sydney before the end of the year. So now, rather than exporting products to Australia where they’re in demand, we’ll be able to make identical products there.”
Paul acknowledges that the composite saveBOARD look might be a little different from what some industry professionals are used to, but says that their clients embrace that as part of the story. “Our finish will never be as perfect as a virgin product because we’re using shredded material, but that’s not why people come to us. They come to us because they genuinely want to use these products for the right reasons and make a real, measurable difference in the industry and the world.”
One client he highlights is Saito, an international label and tag supplier who has just opened a new New Zealand facility in Kerepehi. “They wanted to take a longer-term view of their new building and reached out to us on the basis of our story. They saw that an early-stage investment in sustainable materials like solar panels would lower their long-term operational costs, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the facility. 100% of their linings are made with our products and we managed to integrate some of their own packaging waste into the build as well. We’ll be processing their production waste as a front-end client from now on. This is an approach we’re also starting to take with construction site waste: taking their soft plastics like timber wrap and tape and then repurposing them into building materials that go back into the site where they came from. And when those products eventually reach the end of their lifespan, we’ll take them back and repurpose them again.”
End-user interest has been steadily increasing, Paul says, which has prompted the addition of an online shop on their website. “It used to be that you just chose your carpets and your bench tops and so on, but specifying wall linings wasn’t really the done thing for residential customers. Alternatives like saveBOARD are changing all of that for home-owners who really care about the environment.
“We have a great product that makes a real impact and a great story that’s easy for people to grasp. One day, you’re drinking your oat milk, and a few days later it’s in a saveBOARD.”
To learn more, visit https://www.saveboard.nz/ and follow saveBOARD on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.