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Recyclable utility poles promote the circular economy

WOPAS delivers eco-friendly utility poles and related products made from natural wood and recycled plastic. The entire pole is recyclable, contributing to the circular economy.

Utility poles must be constructed to withstand harsh weather conditions, rot and damage from woodpeckers and borers. For the past 150 years, the industry has preserved the wood with creosote, a carcinogenic chemical mixture. Creosote can endanger human health through exposure and harm the environment by leaching into the soil and water. Once treated, the poles cannot be recycled and must be incinerated according to stringent environmental requirements.

Recyclable utility poles from non-toxic, recycled material

WOPAS delivers utility poles made from natural wood and polyethylene plastic (PE), two-thirds of which is recycled. The eco-friendly solution avoids toxic biocides, relying instead on construction techniques to prevent wood damage and decay.

The poles are coated in a protective layer of plastic of 5–10 mm (subject to dimension) through a patented extrusion technique. Ends are capped and the encapsulation keep outs oxygen and moisture, providing constructive wood protection. Moreover, the PE used meets the standard for drinking water-grade pipes, so the utility poles are safe for the environment, the workers who handle them and those who live near them.

WOPAS uses this same technique to produce similar products, such as marine piles, light poles and fence posts for cattle. The company manages the entire supply chain in-house at its factory in Norway.

WOPAS marine piles are produced with the same non-toxic materials as its utility poles.

Concrete benefits

WOPAS utility poles and other products are designed to be recycled, which promotes the circular economy. They are made of 85 per cent renewable FSC certified raw wood material, 10 per cent recycled PE and 5 per cent juvenile PE.

Both the natural wood and the PE can be recycled through mechanical separation. The wood can be repurposed as building material, such as oriented strand board. Moreover, the poles have a long lifetime, lasting up to 80 years.

In a Swedish life cycle analysis of pole materials, WOPAS received ”best in test” in six of seven environmental impact categories.

Market potential

The global utility pole market is expected to reach USD 52 billion by 2024. The electricity industry is seeking alternatives to conventional poles made with toxic materials. The EU has banned creosote, with a temporary exemption for utility poles. Other authorities have banned this chemical as well.

Launched in 2017, WOPAS utility poles have been approved for use by Vattenfall, the largest grid owner in Scandinavia. WOPAS is now targeting opportunities beyond Scandinavia, either through physical exports or licensing of local production.

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Company

WOPAS AS

Kleivi Næringspark 4, NO-3570 Ål, Norway

+47 32 09 12 44
wopas.net

At a glance

  • Eco-friendly utility poles

  • Made from sustainable wood and drinking-grade plastic

  • Long-lasting and fully recyclable

Status

Available

Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals