Plant stems growing in a pot

Renewable and biodegradable materials are environmentally friendly and cheaper to produce.

Renewable and biodegradable materials

Renewable and biodegradable materials not only consume less energy in their preparation, but also are less problematic to dispose of at the end of their useful life.

  • 31 May 2005 | Updated 16 January 2013

Renewable materials

Renewable materials are substances derived from a living tree, plant, animal or ecosystem which has the ability to regenerate itself. A renewable material can be produced again and again. For example, when we use plantation wood to make paper we can plant more trees to replace it.

Earth's mineral resources are finite, and often energy-intensive, but timber resources can be produced indefinitely, with strong environmental benefits.

Earth's mineral resources are finite, and processing them is often energy-intensive. Renewable materials can be produced indefinitely, with strong environmental benefits.

Renewable materials:

  • will not be depleted if managed properly
  • may have reduced net emissions of CO2 across their life cycle compared to materials from fossil fuels
  • result in biodegradable waste.

CSIRO focuses its research into renewable materials through its work in plant and animal breeding and genetics, and through its research into the forestry, wool, cotton, and food industries.

CSIRO works to establish and maintain international standards of sustainability across these primary and secondary industries.

CSIRO research into renewable materials includes:

  • renewable and biodegradable wood product research
  • designing and synthesizing new, biocompatible synthetic polymers and natural materials, for use in ophthalmics, orthopaedics and tissue engineering
  • research into using crops to provide raw materials for industrial chemicals and polymers, such as plastics, and to surmount obstacles preventing the general use of plant-based resources
  • research into the genetics and breeding of animals for improved end-products, such as finer wool, or more tender meat
  • reducing environmental impacts of building by using renewable materials, which consume less energy in their preparation and are less problematic to dispose of at the end of their useful life
  • research into the quality, processing, sustainability and end uses of natural fibres to increase the value of Australian wool and cotton in the international market.

Biodegradable materials

Biodegradable materials are substances that will decompose in a natural environment. Our research covers a wide range of activities, such as:

  • re-engineering, designing and developing materials, processes and systems, including nano- and microstructured materials
  • investigating methods for processing plant proteins to produce biodegradable materials to replace some petro-plastics
  • developing environmentally sustainable adhesives for paperboard industries
  • examining recycling and reuse of by-products, such as recycling wool scour wastes into compost
  • development of a biodegradable and biocompatible polymer that can be used in the human body, to glue broken bones and promote tissue growth.

Learn more about CSIRO's work in Manufacturing and Materials.