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News analysis: Why wood is growing

Wood reprocessing in the UK looks like it has a healthy future ahead of it, a view taken by the Waste Resources and Action Programme (WRAP) and supported by new figures released from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last week.

Defra statistics for packaging and packaging waste for the second quarter of 2005 were published, and generally show a massive increase in the amount of material that was exported for reprocessing. The new figures for the total amount of material exported for recycling are almost double those of the same time last year, increasing 47% from the second quarter of 2004 to that of 2005. Recycling of all materials within the UK increased by a more modest 2.4% over the same period.

The only material that had no exports recorded for the first or second quarter of 2005 was wood. Small amounts of wood waste had been sent abroad in 2004 but these amounts had declined over the year, from 172 tonnes in the first quarter of 2004 to 68 tonnes in the final quarter. In contrast the amount of wood reprocessed in the UK in 2004 increased by 6% from the first to the fourth quarter. The trend looks set to continue, with figures growing 2.8% from the first to second quarter of 2005, though the tonnage of material was down slightly on 2004.

WRAP wood sector manager Tom Fourcade said that the lack of wood exported in 2005 was expected and unsurprising. He explained that wood does not generally transport well and there are not the international markets for it as there are with other materials such as plastic. Most wood reprocessing is carried out domestically in the UK, removing the need to send it abroad.

Of the 1.4 million tonnes of wood waste produced in the UK each year a hefty 1.2 million tonnes is recycled. And of that amount, about 90% is reprocessed in the UK. WRAP says it expects to see domestic wood reprocessing continue to grow and wants to see a growth in high value wood reprocessing, creating products such as animal bedding. According to WRAP the amount of wood reprocessed in the UK has soared from virtually nothing in 1994 to 30,000 tonnes in 2001 and 190,000 tonnes in 2004.

The launch of a new capital support competition by WRAP should help it achieve increased wood recycling rates. WRAP's wood programme has an overall target of delivering an additional 150,000 tonnes of recycling capacity for waste wood. The open tender competition is designed to accelerate investment in higher value wood recycling and help create new wood reprocessing infrastructure. This follows the £500,000 grant WRAP recently awarded for a new dedicated wood recycling plant in Northern Ireland, that MRW reported on last week.

WRAP is now looking to specifically target the South East, after a study it undertook earlier in the year identified a gap in the market there.

About 1 million tonnes of waste wood is generated in the South East each year, and of this a staggering 800,000 tonnes goes to landfill. The competition, run in partnership with the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), aims to divert this wood waste from landfill to higher value use through creating a new wood reprocessing capacity in the region and increasing the manufacturing of added value recycled wood products.

Fourcade said: "We believe the future of wood recycling will be more assured if greater value can be generated through the supply chain." Wood Recyclers' Association secretary Rick Wilcox said.

He added the grant was a "great chance for wood rec

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