CCA Timber and the need for alternatives

Many property owners impacted by recent bushfires in South Australia have copper chromated arsenate (CCA) posts which are now burnt or damaged by the fire and need replacing. CCA timber and ash must be carefully managed as they are hazardous to human health and the environment. When replacing CCA posts there are alternatives that are safer for human health and better for the environment. CCA alternatives that use easily recyclable metal, or are made from recycled material, like plastic and reclaimed wood help reduce waste and support a circular economy. The more circular our economy, the more we are actively reducing our carbon footprint and our climate impact. Although these recycled posts cost more initially the whole of life cost can be less than CCA posts when factors such as hazardous handling and disposal are taken into consideration.

Burnt CCA post

What is Copper Chromated Arsenate Timber?

Copper chromated arsenate (CCA) timber, also called ‘permapine’, is wood treated with a water-based heavy metal mixture which includes arsenic, chromium and copper, which are fixed to the wood to protect and preserve the timber. CCA treated timber is commonly used as a trellis for grape vines, orchards, garden furniture, and fence posts. Thousands of these posts have been burnt by the recent bushfires and need replacing. There are also countless CCA posts that could be replaced at their end of life with a more effective and responsible alternative which also use recycled, or easily recyclable materials that are far less hazardous. Replacing even a small percentage of CCA timber with more sustainable and circular alternatives would benefit the environment, and the economy in South Australia.

The problem with CCA timber

Burnt CCA posts and CCA timber ash presents a high risk through inhalation or ingestion as well as contaminating soil and potentially polluting ground water. Burnt CCA timber ash can be harmful even in small amounts, with short-term effects including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. The chemicals used to make CCA timber amount to about 10% by weight of the product, and these hazardous chemicals still remain after the timber is burnt and becomes ash. The ash is a risk to our soil health and our long term economic health.

The real cost of CCA timber

CCA posts often do not last as long as more environmentally sustainable alternatives. The cost of sending CCA posts to landfill is an important part of considering the overall cost of ownership because CCA timber is costly to dispose of. Not all landfills accept CCA timber and ash because of the hazards in handling it – CCA and CCA ash is considered a hazardous material. Currently there is a waste levy is applied to CCA timber in South Australia of $140 per tonne to send waste to landfill. When the cost of transport, labour, gate fees and handling is factored in, this can be as high as $400 per tonne, or more than $10 per post to send a CCA post to landfill in South Australia.


Why are the alternatives better for the environment and the economy?

Metal alternativeMetal
Metal posts last much longer than timber, and metal can be recycled many times. Metal posts do not need to go to landfill, avoiding the cost of transport and gate fees. In many cases, metal retains more value and many recyclers will pay for scrap metal. Modern metal alternatives are rust and corrosion resistant and can be designed to avoid the need for clips, making maintenance easier and increasing the lifespan of posts.

Plastic alternativeRecycled plastic and plastic/wood composites
Recycled plastic posts use 100% post-consumer and industrial wastes like saw dust and plastic we recycle through our kerbside yellow bins. This actively reuses the plastic, keeping the material part of a circular economy, while also diverting plastic from landfill and litter and into a valuable product which out performs CCA timber. Recycled plastic posts and plastic coated timber posts don't rot, splinter, or weather with age or UV radiation and are impervious to pests like termites. They are also chemically inert, which means they won’t leach chemicals into the soil.


Who supplies CCA alternatives for South Australia?

APR (Advanced Plastic Recycling)
www.advancedplasticrecycling.com.au

Coopers Rural and Hardware
www.coopersmylor.com.au

Eco Trellis
www.ecotrellis.com
(supplied in SA through Pridham Viticulture, www.pridhamviticulture.com.au)

Ocloc
www.ocloc.com.au

Replas SA
www.replas.com.au/replas-sa

Senturion Steel Supplies
https://www.senturion.com.au

Waratah Fencing
www.waratahfencing.com.au
(supplied in SA through DJ Growers, www.djsgrowers.com.au)

Woodshield
www.woodshield.com.au