The Environment Agency has announced new guidance for the timber industry which effectively removes existing controls on the recovery of virgin timber.

Clean non-virgin timber will remain regulated, normally through exemptions, while treated timber will still be considered a waste and will be regulated in the normal way.

The idea is to make putting untreated wood back into productive use as easy as possible.

“Virgin timber has not been oiled, painted, preserved or chemically treated in any way and doesn’t pose a risk to human health or the environment,” said Martin Brocklehurst, head of external programmes for the Environment Agency.

“As a result, producers can recover and sell-on virgin waste wood such as off-cuts, shavings or sawdust from sawmills, free from regulatory control.”

This decision came about as a result of work undertaken by the Waste Protocols Project.

The project, run by the Environment Agency and WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) made efforts to develop a potocol to reduce regulation on ‘waste’ wood and to remove uncertainty over the point at which ‘waste’ wood is fully recovered and can be used as a resource.

“However, the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) which included members of industry, found that standards in wood recovery varied and common quality controls could not be agreed upon,” Mr Brocklehurst said.

“We believe a Quality Protocol for clean non-virgin timber can be achieved. The industry needs to work together to agree common standards and quality controls.”

Whilst a Quality Protocol cannot currently be put in place – the Environment Agency recognises that wide variability exists in specifications used in waste wood markets.

As the market for waste wood products develops it will remain an option for companies to make a case to the Environment Agency that the waste wood has been fully recovered to a standard that can be widely marketed as a product.

Such submissions will be considered on a case by case basis to encourage higher standards to prevail.

It is hoped in future that these higher standards could be industry-wide and form the basis of a Quality Protocol.

The use of non-virgin treated timber will remain under regulatory control.

WRAP’s Dr Richard Swannell, joint project executive for the Waste Protocols Project, said: “One of the objectives of the Waste Protocols Project is to clarify the regulatory position for industry.

“Although we are disappointed that we could not achieve a Quality Protocol on this occasion, we hope that this clarification means that the wood recycling industry can develop further.”

The regulatory position statement for wood can be found on the Environment Agency website at

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie