Interior design and construction company Unilin has partnered with Dutch company Wood Loop to recycle more wood waste. This minimises the volumes of incinerated waste and allows Unilin to focus on recycling to manufacture more chipboards using recycled material.
Its group project manager of circular economy Kristof Hoye said, “The wood mass of the chipboards we manufacture in our plants has consisted of 90-95% of recycled wood.” He added that for that production, 900,000 tonnes of wood waste is recycled per year, sourced from waste and demolition companies or recycling centres, for instance.
For this purpose, the furniture makers and interior builders sort wood into crates supplied and collected by Wood Loop. Using an app, they can see how many crates have been turned in and what the ecological impact is, an additional impetus for the furniture maker to contribute, according to Deursen. “Every crate delivers approximately 228kg of reusable raw material, saving 66kg of CO2 emissions,” he added, “This recovered wood is then collected at the retailer with the delivery of new chipboard material. The residual wood is taken to the panel material manufacturer, who recycles it into new chipboards.”
The collaboration with Wood Loop is said to create a process with fewer intermediary steps so that the logistics process itself also produces less CO2. Moreover, the recovered wood is reportedly purer because it is collected from the furniture maker instead of from the waste processor which saves costs for Unilin as there are fewer impurities to be removed from the collected wood volumes. The panel material collected via Wood Loop has been granted ‘end-of-waste status’, which is necessary to allow reuse as raw material, constituting a new step towards a circular economy.
Wood Loop is said to work in four steps.
First, chipboards are sorted. Previously, all waste wood from furniture companies and interior design builders was collected in bulk by waste companies, who sorted it themselves. Now, furniture companies and interior design builders will sort their own residual chipboards into separate Wood Loop crates. One crate contains up to 360kg of chipboard. By sorting this waste at the source, Wood Loop is reportedly able to recover a larger portion of waste wood for reuse.
The next step is the all-in-one collection and delivery. When a Wood Loop crate is full, the interior design builder or furniture company scans the QR code on the crate. The timber merchant who distributes panel material collects the full crate and delivers an empty replacement together with the delivery of new panel material. Combining collection and delivery in this manner is said to enable Wood Loop to limit the CO2 emissions further.
The third step is the collection and processing. As the waste wood of the affiliated companies is collected in a single location. This bulk transport to Unilin Group will be processed.
Finally, with the reusable waste wood, Unilin manufactures new panels which are used in a number of products. In turn, these products are shipped back to the furniture companies and interior design builders bring the process full circle.
Wood Loop’s Dirk Deursen said that the Netherlands consumes one third of the total wood stream, or 635 kilotonnes per year. “One sixth of those new panels that furniture makers or interior builders use in their manufacturing process unfortunately ends up in the waste container,” he added, “[With] Wood Loop, Unilin can recycle these surpluses to cut its overall CO2 emissions by 95,000 tonnes.” To recover that surplus wood, Wood Loop uses existing transport. “The retailer who delivers the ordered panel material to the furniture maker of interior builder also takes back the wood waste”, he said.
Founded by Koninklijke — the Dutch industry federation for interior design and furniture industry —Wood Loop offers wood processor, retailer and panel material manufacturer in the Netherlands a formula to recycle their surplus chipboards. Further, its recover project reportedly collects chipboards and other wood surpluses from customers based in Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France. “Together with Wood Loop, we are doing the same for smaller customers who use smaller quantities,” Hoye said. In 2024, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) will be added to the list.