Recycling Wood: Is It Really Worth it?

The Process

Timber recycling – more commonly known as wood recycling – is the process of turning wood waste timber into useable products. Recycling timber become popular during the early 90s as timber suppliers and consumers turned to more eco-friendly sources.

Recycling timber is the most eco-friendly way of producing timber and is most common in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where they are blessed with a plethora of wooden structures.

The Benefits

Obviously, recycling comes with many benefits regarding the welfare of our planet. Recycling timber has become popular due to its image as an environmentally friendly product. Many believe that by purchasing recycled wood, this will lessen the demand for “green timber” meaning that the environment will ultimately benefit.

The well-known environmental protection campaign Greenpeace also view recycled timber as an a positive step forward in recycling wood, claiming it’s the best form of recycled wood on their website.

Recycled timber has been a much welcomed product in the recycling industry, it has been responsible for raising industry and consumer awareness towards deforestation and prodding timber mills to seek more eco-friendly practices.

The Drawbacks

Despite the good that recyclable wood brings, there are some drawbacks..

Due to the fact that sometimes the ends of wall studs need to be cut off to stop decay and cracking, this resulting in a shorter piece of wood. What this means is that the wood may not meet building code safety regulations. Despite the recyclable wood costing less than purchasing new wood, the process is time-consuming and laborious which means more time and effort is put into demolition strategies, as opposed to just tearing the structure down.

There is also a stigma attached to “used” or, “cheap” wood which does effect the sales, as it’s perceived to be not as good as “new” wood.

The short of it is that these problems aren’t necessarily impassable, it’s just that many builders would prefer to buy new wood as its easier, less time-consuming and easier to re-shape and source.

Where Would You See Recycled Timber?

The concept of recycling timber is not exactly new. In 1948, the Golm transmitter tower near Potsdam (Germany) was built out of recycled timber! It stood for 31 years until being dismantled in 1993. It’s now covered in vegetation and only parts of the foundations of one mast remain.

Reclaimed Lumber

Reclaimed lumber is wood that is processed and retried from its original application for purposes of subsequent use. The majority of reclaimed lumber comes from timbers and decking from disused barns, warehouses, factories and other similar places that harbour such ‘waste wood.’

Reclaimed, or antique lumber is mainly used for interior decoration, design, home building and general property upkeep.

Sources of Waste Wood

Municipal Waste – When households dispose of products such as furniture, DIY remnants and wood packing, this is what embodies municipal waste.

Industrial and Commercial Waste – Waste from manufacturers of furniture, construction materials, this includes floorboards and doors.

Construction and Demolition Waste – In short, leftover timber from construction and demolition sites. Things such as staircases, floorboards, doors, furniture and almost anything in-between makes up this grouping.

How Does This Impact Earth?

The ERM (Environmental Resources Management) estimates that the UK produces roughly 7.5 million tonnes of waste wood a year, yet only 15-20% of this waste are being used and/or reused.

What this means is that the remaining 6 tonnes of wood ends up taking space in landfills in the UK each year. This is a huge waste of wood that could have been made to help build a vast array of future projects.

This is problematic for many reasons. The wood waste build-up in landfill contributes heavily to land, water and air pollution. Also, it’s not cheap to dispose of waste in landfills, costing governments and communities thousands.

The demand is still very high for wood all over the world, meaning large areas of forest lands are being destroyed to meet the world’s desires. Following this, large-scale deforestation practices are also contributing to environmental problems like increasing greenhouse gases, wildlife extinction and soil erosion, to name a few.

Instead of being reused or recycled so that fewer trees need to be destroyed in order to cater for the world’s timber needs.

The wood is left rotting in landfills instead.

What are you doing to ensure that recyclable wood doesn’t go to waste? Let me know in the comments below!


Author: Ben Taylor

Eco Warrior! Recycling Buff! Owner of James Waste Management LLP, UK recycling over 90% of waste.

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