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Casting a new light on wooden splints

A biodegradable material for casts and splints is having its debut trial in New Zealand. Source: Stuff NZ

A compostable cast is set to break the mould on its debut trial in New Zealand. Made from sustainable wood chips and biodegradable plastic, Woodcast is a mouldable material for casts and splints and is being trialled at Hands On Rehabilitation in Red Beach, north Auckland. 

Developed in Norway, the material offers a sustainable alternative to traditional plaster of Paris and fibreglass methods and, according to hand therapist Alison Coyle, it might be the future. 

Ms Coyle has been applying thermoplastic casts and splints for around 20 years, and has taken quickly to the new material. 

“[Materials] have evolved over the years but there has been nothing up until now that has been reusable and recyclable like this,” she said. 

At Therapy director Sharon Dodds and hand therapist Alison Coyle are excited for the Woodcast product to take off.

Moulded with heat, and easy to cut with scissors, Ms Coyle says Woodcast uses “the same basic premise” as tradition thermoplastic – but it does come with benefits. 

At 2mm thick, it’s light and strong and, once applied, it can be re-heated and re-moulded as often as needed. 

It is also durable enough to stay on long-term, and due to its thickness, it can be used underneath strapping tape in competitive sports, within regulations. 

Ms Dodds says the product may take a while to catch on, but consumers may start making the eco-friendly choice, once they know it’s available. 

“I think there’s a certain group of the public who – once they know about it – will ask for it, just like reusable bags at the supermarket,” she said.

Ms Coyle agrees, saying change won’t happen overnight.

“As with any new product it will take a bit of time for people to get used to doing something different,” she said. “It’s just about creating awareness and then educating and having people coming on board saying yes, let’s do it.”

And in terms of the wider implications of sustainability – we don’t really have a choice.