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Building wood waste opportunities

Wood waste offers recyclers a host of diversion opportunities. Whether considering traditional recycling routes such as chipboard and animal bedding manufacture, or more innovative approaches involving the likes of pellet fuels or green-glued timbers, it is essential to have access to up-to-date and comprehensive market research.

And thats where the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) comes in. It has released a regional study of wood recycling activities within the M62 motorway corridor.

The study, which was undertaken by TRADA (Timber Research and Development Association) Technology together with The Mersey Forest and Red Rose Forest, provides a detailed study of wood recycling around the western section of the M62. Although relatively small in area, the study covers Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the northern part of Cheshire and encompasses several highly industrial regions.

Completed during 2003 and the early part of this year, the study aims to identify and collate data on sources, types and volumes of wood waste potentially available for recycling. It also highlights end-users and any potential barriers.

The WRAP study surveyed the widest possible range of producers and users of wood and wood waste. Local authorities, wood recyclers and processors, general processors and manufacturers using wood, the construction industry and the forestry and arboriculture sector were all considered.

The study found that more than 17,000 tonnes per year of waste wood was collected and segregated for recycling from 10 of the 14 civic amenities (CA) involved in the study.

The average site segregates 1,700 tonnes of wood waste for recycling each year. Typically, this is collected by wood recyclers and processed by the particleboard industry. Neither chipboard nor MDF can be recycled in this way and it is important that CA sites separate these materials so as not to contaminate recyclable loads. The study shows an average contamination level of 40% and, as there is no outlet for MDF, chipboard and treated wood, these materials are being disposed of into the general waste stream.

A small proportion of material from CA sites is sent for power generation in Bolton, providing 10MW of electricity to feed into the National Grid.

The study shows a minimum of 163,000 tonnes of waste wood being sent to wood recyclers and processors each year, with 90% of this going to three large specialist recyclers in the Greater Manchester area. The most important markets were particleboard and animal bedding production. Other applications include future reprocessing, composting and heat generation.

Almost half of the wood waste generated by general manufacturers and processors in the area is being recycled, with the majority being sent off-site for recycling and processing.

Importantly, some wood is still being sent to landfill. The study shows that larger processors had become proficient in the handling of wood waste while smaller companies found it more challenging. Overall, manufacturers were very aware of the cost of waste and were enthusiastic in their desire to minimise it. In practice this translates into the use of optimised sawing patterns, reuse of off-cuts and the ad hoc disposal of wood waste to the public for DIY projects.

For construction and demolition companies, the study found that the average percentage of incoming wood leaving an organisation as waste is 35%. The study says that this low amount may result from the use of prefabricated wood-based products.


The average wood waste management cost for the area is £11 per tonne, although one company reports figures as high as £65 per tonne: the highest costs were incurred by large, urban construction sites where space is limited.

The particleboard industry currently consumes 90% of the UKs recycled wood. As a result this industry is in a position to dictate prices and these were found to be low, so creating a barrier to further recycling.

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