Since becoming chair of the WRA four years ago, I have seen huge changes within the sector as it has grown, developed and come under increasing scrutiny.
It is an industry still relatively in its infancy, but one which has the potential to increase in size and bring much added value to the UK’s economy as well as the circular economy. Yet we view its potential in the face of some challenging circumstances, where we are increasingly being asked to justify how we operate and examine if there are better ways of doing things.
Don’t get me wrong – scrutiny is no bad thing and helps to ensure that, as operators, we remain on the right side of legislation. The WRA has spent many hours talking with the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales to look at both fire prevention plans and the classification of hazardous waste wood.
Both are big topics and both require outcomes we collectively need to get right for the future of the wood recycling industry. Such projects are still work in progress and we will continue to put forward our members’ views.
However, amid all this I am keen that we do not lose sight of the positive aspects that wood recycling brings to the UK. First in the form of sustainable and environmentally friendly products which are manufactured from waste wood, but also of the contribution made by the sector to the country’s recycling targets and to landfill diversion.
In particular I want to highlight the security that the waste wood industry provides for the UK’s energy supply.
With more large-scale biomass facilities due to come on-line this year, the prediction for waste wood biomass requirements is that it will more than double to 2.6 million tonnes a year. This means that around 2.9TW of annual domestic power production will be generated when the new facilities are on-stream. That is enough to supply 700,000 UK households.
So while we are happy to work with regulators on all aspects of site safety and environmental protection, we would also like to ensure our industry receives the credit it deserves for its contribution to the UK as a whole.
Andy Hill is Wood Recycler’s Association (WRA) chair