Currently, petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin, polyester, polyurethane and expanded polystyrene are used in combination with glass and carbon fibre fabrics to produce water sports equipment such as surfboards. Global production of plastics amounted to 350 million tonnes in 2018. A large part of this quantity is produced on the basis of the non-renewable raw material petroleum. In addition to the finite availability of the raw material, the slow degradation at the end of the life cycle of the products and components, among other things, as well as the continuously growing plastic pollution associated with this, represent a challenge worldwide. As an alternative to the conventional choice of material, a sandwich element made of flax fibres and biopolymer as the outer shell and recycled balsa wood as the core material is therefore to be developed.
The aim of the project is to develop and test a bio-based composite material using recycled balsa wood to produce the wood foam core. Using the application example of the stand-up paddleboard, the potential of flax fibres as an alternative to glass and carbon fibres as well as biopolymers will be presented. The substitution of petrochemical and mineral components with renewable and, in some cases, additionally recycled raw materials results in potential savings in terms of energy requirements as well as the raw material-based, ecological footprint and thus a strengthening of the bio-based economy. These ecological savings potentials are analysed within the framework of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) carried out by the IMF over the entire life cycle of the ecoSUP and a comparable reference board. In this way, the environmental impacts are determined holistically, whereby hotspots along the life cycles can be identified and potential product shifts can be identified. It also allows the environmental impacts of the ecoSUP to be analysed in comparison to the petroleum-based reference.