The Waste Hierarchy

These days, recycling is at the heart of waste disposal. Many disposal companies claim to recycle up to 95% or even 100% of what they collect. However, what most people refer to simply as ‘recycling’ involves a wide range of activities. In reality, the majority of waste wood that gets recycled is chipped and the chips used to make chipboard or burnt in power stations. This involves the waste timber being industrially processed and shipped long distances, often overseas – so although using the wood in this way is preferable to landfill, it still has a significant carbon footprint. Much waste wood however is perfectly reusable; it’s high-quality wood or wood products that shouldn’t be “downcycled” into woodchip, but it’s not cost-effective to resell using conventional methods. That’s where Community Wood Recycling comes in: we aim to divert as much wood as possible from the waste stream and make sure that it gets reused in the most environmentally beneficial way possible. This can mean getting it back into use in DIY or building, making it into a range of wooden products, or burning it locally as fuel (without the environmental costs of long-distance transport or processing it into industrial-grade biomass).

Benefits of Reuse

  • Reduces landfill emissions. By finding a niche for reusable wood, we widen the waste wood end market, reducing wood sent to landfill. Methane is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, and each tonne of wood which rots in landfill is thought to produce a quantity of methane as harmful as 600 kg of CO2.
  • Reduces pressure on forests. Much of the UK’s wood is imported, often from countries with little forestry regulation. By providing the community with a completely sustainable source of mixed wood types, we reduce the need to look to distant and potentially unsustainable forests for timber.
  • Less energy wasted. Acquiring wood from normal forestry sources is thought to consume around 10 times more energy than it takes to prepare wood for reuse, making reused wood highly preferable for those wishing to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. It’s also much more energy-efficient to reuse wood than recycling it by converting it into chipboard.
  • Ready community wood source. By providing a wide range of sustainable, locally-sourced wood and wooden products, we encourage communities to come together in making the best use of this wonderful material. Because it absorbs carbon as it grows, about 1.6 tonnes of CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere for each tonne of wood grown, as opposed to materials like metal which add up to 5 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere for each tonne manufactured, in addition to the ground pollution caused by mining.

In addition to those benefits, our method of reuse involves volunteers from the community, many of them facing barriers to work as a result of their history or physical or emotional state, with simple, active, team-based work that’s proven effective in building skills and confidence. Many of our volunteers go on to either permanent employment with us, or with other local businesses that we have ties with.

We’d reuse all of our wood if it were possible, but currently we only manage to reuse about 50% of the wood we collect, recycling the rest. Still, in 2017 we succeeded in reusing over 10,000 tonnes of waste wood, as much output as a small forest! If you want to help us push it up even further, please consider buying timber or furniture from one of our enterprises.

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