Approximately five million tonnes of waste wood is generated in the UK each year, with a large proportion sent for recycling and energy recovery.
WRAP has developed a Publicly Available Specification, PAS 111, that sets out the minimum standard for recovered waste wood for it to be suitable for recycling. This sets out the acceptable condition and level of contamination that ensures waste wood is suitable for recycling, as well as determines which types of wood are hazardous and not suitable for recycling.
Waste wood sent for recycling arises from numerous sources, primarily related to packaging, DIY or end-of-life furniture. This includes off-cuts; boxes; packing cases; floorboards; chipboard and OSB; plywood; melamine and laminates; and MDF. Most of the wood waste from households is collected at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs).
Waste wood from trees and shrubs is classified as green or organic waste. This is typically sent for composting.
As well as wood recycling, numerous community-owned and private businesses provide wood reuse services, which reclaim usable timber for resale.
A large proportion of wood recycling is not a closed-loop process. Instead, waste wood is recycled into valuable new products. In some of the examples below, this is a case of upcycling, where the recycled product is of higher value than the original product that has reached its end of life.
One of the primary uses for recycled waste wood is landscaping, with wood chips from recycled wood being spread to ground in a variety of contexts after undergoing a strict cleaning and production process, ensuring size and texture are appropriate for their desired use.
When applied to gardens or agricultural land, recycled wood chips act as an excellent ground covering for pathways thanks to its durable nature and weed-suppressing properties. It can also be used in other horticultural products, such as mulches.
Recycled wood is also employed for more recreational uses, such as ground coverings in equestrian arenas, children’s playgrounds and golf pathways, while local authorities are increasingly using recycled wood chips to mark pathways and improve the visual properties of local amenities.
Recycled wood fibre is an increasingly popular material used in animal bedding for both agricultural and home purposes. Thanks to its warm, absorbent properties, which can be enhanced using additives, recycled wood fibre now regularly forms the basis of bedding for livestock and pets alike. Prior to being turned into animal bedding, the recycled wood undergoes a stringent cleaning procedure that ensures the final product is free of dust and contaminants.
One of the main end-of-life routes for recycled wood fibre is panel board, which uses around 850,000 tonnes of recycled wood a year to contribute to the UK’s annual consumption of five million cubic metres of panel board.
Panelboard is produced using a mix of recycled and raw material, with products classified as sheet materials with wood the dominant material. Using a mix of recycled and raw material is beneficial since recycled wood is drier than virgin wood. The mix between the two depends on the individual end product, such as plywood, particleboard (includes chipboard), oriented strand board, and fibreboards including MDF.
Aside from going to make new products, recycled wood can be used in biomass facilities to generate heat and energy. Every year, 3.1 million tonnes of waste wood is used to generate energy, equivalent to 3,500 gigawatt hours.