Biomass and wood recycling
In the processing of trees, there is little or no waste. Residues are used either as feedstocks for other industries such as paper and panels, or are used as fuel to assist in the efficiency of the production process.
Thinnings from forest management can be utilised for paper and panels and are a valuable market for the economics of forestry. However, in the quest for energy that is not based on fossil fuels, there is much activity in utilising wood. Indeed, agricultural land can be used for fast-growing woody crops such as willow and miscanthus grass. In a free market, biomass should command the best price when used as feedstock for manufactured products, but if the price is distorted by subsidies for use purely as energy, the panels and paper industries may find that they are short of raw materials. The effects of this are far reaching and complex.
The UK generates an estimated 5 million tonnes of post-consumer waste wood each year. In 1996, at the end of its service life, most wood found its way into landfill and less than 200,000 tonnes was recycled. Shortage of landfill and increasing taxation on landfill together with government initiatives through the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) have stimulated the rapid growth of markets for recycled wood. Recycling has now grown to almost 3 million tonnes per annum, but there is still scope for much more. Some wood cannot at present be recycled owing to contamination with chemicals.
Historically most recycled wood went into panels manufacture. Now, however, added value products such as landscaping products, animal and poultry bedding, path and playground surfaces.
Demand is high and growing as processes are developed for improving the quality and efficiency of the products.