CHICAGO -  At NeoCon 2014, Asahi Kasei Plastics will launch a polypropylene resin reinforced with tree fibers instead of fiberglass.

Tree Fiber in New Furniture Polypropylene Allows for RecyclingIntended for injection molded seating and office components, it uses 20% tree fiber reinforcing fibers instead of a comparable amount of fiberglass, allowing recycling and upcycling. The cellulose used comes from sustainably harvested forests, says the company.

Asahi Kasei Plastics, based in Fowlerville, MI, says the new biomaterial-based furniture industry resin reinforced with cellulose (tree fiber) will reduce the carbon footprint left by products made from it, calculating that 1 million pounds of 20% tree fiber reinforced polypropylene used in place of a 20% fiberglass version saves the equivalent of 68 years worth of gas per American driver each year; or the equivalent of 411,205 pounds of coal burned per year.

"The product is also opens up possibilities for recycling and upcycling," says Asahi Kasei in its announcement. "After 10 complete reprocessing cycles, a 30% tree fiber reinforced compound maintains 83 to 85% of its original properties."

Recycling and and upcycling -  taking a product that is no longer useful and turning it into another product of equal value - is of growing importance to furniture manufacturers vieing for relevance in attaining LEED points for green building and interiors. Asahi Kasei Plastics says it has developed another plastic for the furniture industry, Sunvieo, that can be recalimed and then overmolded on top of recycled content, regardless of the color of the original material.

“We recognize that this is a departure from the way chairs are designed today,” Asahi Kasei Plastics Marketing Manager J.P. Wiese said. “But to effectively use the valuable materials from previous chairs, unconventional solutions are required.”

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.