Exports of waste wood products decline as UK markets grow

In general, exports of waste wood biomass and panel board feedstock in the UK fell by 50 per cent in 2017 as compared to 2016, according to the latest figures released by the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA).

A yearly survey carried out by the association also showed a significant rise in the use of waste wood within the UK.

The WRA estimates there remains an estimated 5million tonnes of waste wood available for recycling and recovery in the UK. Of the 3.7million tonnes of recycled or reprocessed wood, 3.2million tonnes is by WRA members.

According to the survey, in 2017, 1.7million tonnes went to the UK biomass plants, a 0.1 million increased compared to the 1.6million tonnes in 2016. Another 1.7 million tonnes was recycled or reused into products such as animal bedding, UK panel board feedstock and landscaping and equestrian surfaces, compared to 1.4 million tonnes in 2016.

300,000 tonnes of remaining waste was then exported as biomass or panel board feedstock, compared to 600,000 tonnes in 2016.

Andy Hill, chairman of the association, which represents 86 per cent of the waste wood market, said WRA members alone had seen an increase of 38 per cent in UK panel board and a 53 per cent growth in UK biomass, which was good for the economy.

However, he repeated a previous warning of potential impending waste wood shortages if recyclers and reprocessors face storage issues in the months over summer.

He said that winter was long during 2017 to 2018. “That has given us a slow start to the year in terms of the volumes of waste wood available. We are predicting that the market will gather pace now over the summer and recyclers will be able to build up their stock levels ready for the peak off-take next winter,” Andy Hill said.

He also pointed out that It is important for recyclers are able to store quantities of material over the summer months. The association is also urging the EA to look very carefully at each individual recycler’s situation and if an operator can prove they have yearly off-take and the sites are really covered with the necessary health and safety requirements, should they be allowed to keep larger quantities of materials.

WRA members returned the following annual tonnages for 2017:

UK Biomass – 1,662,962

Panel board – 851,620 tonnes

Biomass export – 274,006

Animal bedding – 262,785 tonnes

Andy said the Environment Agency now has a new member of staff to look specifically at the granting of Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs) for waste wood and other waste and recycling operators.

“We are awaiting a meeting with the EA so we can now progress our waste wood template for wood recyclers hoping to gain standard and bespoke FPPs for their sites,” said Andy. “We are really hopeful we will soon be able to launch the template which will enable more wood recyclers to gain FPPs and move their businesses forward.”

The outcome of a waste wood classification project is also pending, which the WRA is working on with the EA and several other trade and industry bodies.

The research has also shown that waste wood arising from the construction and demolition route may have a higher risk of having potentially hazardous elements. However, there are also a very small number of items from HWRC sites where further work on sampling and testing is needed.