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Imports warning for biomass plants

Biomass plants could be forced to depend on imported waste wood after domestic availability of the material fell last year, the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) has said.

The WRA said UK processing of waste wood increased by almost 1.5% in 2018 against the previous year. WRA members processed 3.4 million tonnes of waste wood, an increase of more than 6% on 2017.

The body said it now represented 90% of wood processors, and estimated from this that the UK total, including by non-members, was 3.75 million tonnes, up by 1.43% on 2017.

There was also a 10% increase in the processing of packaging waste wood into animal bedding, and biomass wood fuel usage was up by 24% to 2.1 million tonnes.

Some 4.5 million tonnes of waste wood was generated in 2018, a fall from five million tonnes in 2017, which the WRA said reflected a slight downturn in construction and DIY.

WRA executive director Julia Turner said the statistics showed the industry remained buoyant, but the drop in waste wood availability could require imports as more biomass plants come on-stream.

She said the increase in biomass usage reflected the number of new plants and made biomass the largest single user of waste wood in the UK.

Turner said: “There are circa 30 larger-scale biomass plants planned for the UK. We don’t expect there to be any more but, when all of those are commissioned and operational, it will see a huge demand for waste wood in the UK which could mean we have to import some fuel.”

Delays in biomass plants being commissioned meant that 313,000 tonnes of wood waste originally intended for them was instead exported.

Panelboard usage was slightly lower in 2018 at 877,000 tonnes compared with 924,000 tonnes in 2017, which the WRA said resulted from a short closure of one plant.

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