Landfill ban for waste wood could prove futile

A landfill ban on waste wood may have little effect according to new research that suggests that 74% of this material stream is already being recovered.

The Government is looking to consult on banning waste wood from landfill under its Waste Review, but such restrictions may only result in limited additional tonnages becoming available in the UK market.

A Tolvik Consulting report UK Waste Wood Market estimates that in 2010, a maximum of 1.1M tonnes of waste wood was landfilled in the UK – about 4% of total active waste-to-landfill inputs of circa 25M tonnes.

The report estimates that better resource efficiency in the wood supply chain will result in relatively steady future levels of waste wood arisings, and that any increase in the supply of waste wood to the market will come from improved recovery rates.

Based on an 85% recovery rate by 2015, this will be about 0.5M tonnes, with much of the additional tonnage already earmarked for planned UK biomass facilities.

Tolvik’s analysis of the 2010 market reflects the reduction in waste wood arisings following the recession and also acknowledges the role of informal outlets for the material which are not necessarily captured by official statistics.

The report also notes the significant difference between landfill costs and the value of waste wood, highlighting that there is already a commercial incentive to find alternatives to landfill.

With additional demand from biomass facilities already under construction estimated to be 0.5M tonnes, developers of biomass facilities in the UK will face strong competition for waste wood from the mature markets of northern Europe.

For facilities, particularly those nearer to south and east coast ports, competition from the continent is likely to be most fierce with consequent pressure on prices.

For existing markets, such as the panel board sector where demand is expected to remain constant, the risk is that exports may not be a short-term solution, but rather long-term competitive threat.

Maxine Perella

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