Wood waste levels are falling across UK

Wood waste arisings in the UK have fallen by 10% since 2007, according to new research by WRAP - the Waste and Resources Action Programme.

The decrease is primarily down to reduced activity in the construction industry, WRAP claim, which accounted for 50% of the consumption of wood and wood products in 2010.

A slowdown in the furniture and joinery sectors is also noted as a contributing factor.

In figures, the WRAP report shows that some 4.1million tons of wood waste entered the waste stream in the UK last year, down from 4.5million tons in 2007.

In fact during that period, wood waste has been in decline in all areas of the UK apart from Northern Ireland, where levels remain static. In stark contrast, Yorkshire and Humber – one of the three highest wood waste producing regions – recorded the most significant decrease, down 21 per cent.

The biomass sector is also credited with aiding the decline by more than doubling its use of wood waste since 2007.

But while a slowdown in construction across the UK has indeed led to reduced wood waste, WRAP note that in turn has had a knock-on effect on the wood panel sector; traditionally the largest consumer of wood waste. There, demand fell by some 100,000 tons in the same period, just shy of a 10% reduction in its own right.

However, across the board, the figures do indicate a solid trend of decline with the total amount of wood waste recycled or used in energy recovery in the UK increasing from 1.9million tons in 2007 to 2.3 million tons last year – more than half of all wood waste arising. Exported wood waste has also increased, rising to almost 200,000 tons in 2010.

In announcing the report, WRAP’s Marcus Gover was eager to highlight the positive work the construction industry has undertaken on its own behalf to reduce wood waste. “It’s easy to put the decrease in wood waste arising down to a reduction in construction activity during the recent economic downturn, but it’s also important to note that the construction industry – one of the biggest contributors to wood waste arising – has also taken proactive steps to reduce the amount of wood they send to landfill,” he said.

“The introduction of site waste management plans in April 2008, require construction companies to plan, monitor and measure the waste they generate on site, and industry commitments such as Halving Waste to Landfill, launched by WRAP in 2008, have also had an impact.”

The report also notes lower gate fees for wood recyclers since early 2009, stating that while recovered wood arisings are likely to grow once more as the economy recovers, rising demand for recovered wood may continue to keep gate fees low.

Sam Plester

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