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Has wood protocol row got in the way of renewable energy agenda?

Quality Protocols (QPs) are seen as an effective way of deregulating the waste management industry by reducing the need for materials to follow the often complex and restricting world of waste.

But it seems the draft wood QP, which is now out for consultation, is causing more complexities within the wood recycling industry rather than uniting it. This is because the draft QP covers wood grades for use in landscape and panelboard applications, but biomass and wood for animal bedding have both been excluded.

The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) has expressed its disappointment that these two end-uses are not included, but believes the QP to be a positive first step.

“We have an undertaking from the EA that whatever end uses do not make it into the original QP can potentially be added later, via a ‘road map’ process already underway,” Peter Butt, WRA secretary

WRA secretary Peter Butt said: “We need to remember that the QP was looking dead in the water last autumn. We managed to re-boot the process, with the help of WRAP, but the price for doing this was the exclusion – in the short term – of WID-compliant biomass.

“We agreed that we would concentrate on panelboard – which is still our biggest market, and one which accounts for more than half the total output of our industry – plus ‘clean’ wood end uses: land applications, animal bedding and non-WID compliant biomass.

“This was the best deal we could get under the circumstances.

“The subsequent removal of animal bedding and biomass from the draft QP was a surprise and disappointment, and has been the focus of further discussions between the WRA and the EA.

“The consultation process which has just started gives everyone in the industry every opportunity to air their views on why these markets can and should be included, and we intend to grasp that opportunity.”

But the move not to include biomass led to one of the WRA’s technical advisers, Toby Beadle, resigning from his post.

The Environment Agency (EA), WRAP and the WRA have all expressed their intentions to try to find a way to include biomass and animal bedding in the wood QP. Indeed, the WRA has urged those in the industry affected to communicate their opinions on this issue to the EA and WRAP before the consultation ends on 27 April.

“We also have an undertaking from the EA that whatever end uses do not make it into the original QP can potentially be added later, via a ‘road map’ process already underway,” Butt adds. “So although we are not proceeding as quickly as we would like, we are confident that we will get there in the end.”

But Beadle, ex-WRA technical adviser and managing director of Urban Harvest UK, claims that because the EA classes the wood used in bedding as waste it means that, technically, anyone receiving animal bedding, such as pet shops, would need to have a waste management licence to handle it.

Addressing the biomass issue he said: “The EA’s refusal to include treated waste wood in the QP has got in the way of the Government’s renewable energy agenda. Treated wood can be burned in a WID-compliant biomass boiler.

“If the EA was to say that treated wood is no longer a waste, then it would take the definition of ‘waste’ away when biomass plant operators are applying for planning permission and reassure the public about the facility. Currently, as soon as you put in a planning application for a biomass facility which uses the word ‘waste’, the public tries to oppose it because they assume that it’s an incinerator.

“My argument is that we have been using combustion technology for years and the emissions are controlled by the EA itself, so  it is already regulating the risk.  For some reason it believes it needs to control the input as well as the output.

“Currently, almost no biomass plants are being built because they can’t get planning permission and they can’t get the fuel.”

Alastair Kerr, director general of the Wood Panel Industry Federation, is pleased that wood for the panel industry no longer has the stigma of the ‘waste’ label attached to it.

“It will stimulate the use of wood as a resource rather than having it landfilled because it [the QP] now recognises wood as a raw material,” he said. “But it won’t reduce the burden on businesses producing wood panel, which are having to comply with certain waste obligations.

“The fact that biomass fuel is not included won’t make any difference at all to the movement of waste wood to biomass.”

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