Why waste wood at all, it is a valuable resource
by Michael Smith
First we have had a study that costs millions in which the British government discovered – well, so the press release said – that waste wood can be burned; something that the Neanderthals could have told them. Now they are talking of using waste wood, together with food waste, etc. and turning that into a biogas to heat homes and power electricity generating plants.
In Britain, we are told, well over ten million (10,000,000) metric tons of waste wood is chucked into landfills every year.
Now what kind of wood are we talking here? Brushwood and cuttings from agriculture and forestry, or from gardens? No. We are talking milled lumber that has been used in the building industry and elsewhere; shoring timber, joists, and other such that are removed after a building is erected and, because there are nails in the wood here or there and such it cannot, so the building industry says, possibly be reused. Other wood of this nature that is thrown away is wooden pallets and other packaging crates. All, theoretically, reclaimable lumber, ready for many DIY projects of, if need be, as solid fuel for the stove at home.
There used to be a time when pallets, for instance, had a deposit on them and were taken back by the suppliers of the goods delivered on them. No longer. It all goes too waste, and most of it ends up in landfill where it rots down releasing carbon dioxide. This same wood, however, as indicated, would never need to go that route in the first place and neither would it need to be burned (at least not most of it).
Wood, while burning, releases only the amount of carbon dioxide that it has absorbed during its growing process, hence heating with wood is, basically, carbon neutral. It does, however, release the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere when it is composing in landfill; no more, no less. It is therefore better to burn the wood than to “compost” it or have it decay somewhere but... this “waste” wood would and should never have to be “waste” in the first place.
Many years ago I had a book from the USA, the title and author of which I can no longer recall as some “kind” soul borrowed the book from me and forgot to return it, that dealt with the making of furniture from pallets and wooden packing cases, normally thrown into the trash. This book was one of the few proper books I have ever seen on the subject – it would be good to use those ideas and reclaim pallets for some new use and also other “waste” building lumber. There is, in my opinion, no need for any of this kind of wood to be destroyed in any way. Most of this lumber is too good, in fact, to end up being burned.
Lumber of this kind is far too valuable, in my opinion, a resource to be burned, whether in the stove at home or in power stations., and nor should it ever go to the landfill either. It should be reused in whichever way possible and only those bits that have no further use should then be put to use then for the purpose of generating energy, whether as heat at home or in some furnace to make electricity.
Wood is only “waste” then when it really has no other use and cannot be turned into anything other than a source of heat and there is enough of that kind of wood discarded in woods, forests and parks on an almost daily basis in tree operations, often left as “habitat piles” for the wildlife. This practice, however, is not only a waste of a valuable resource, it is a cause of diseases in woods and it is lazy forest management practice.
However, building lumber and the wood of pallets and packing cases should never be turned in to so-called waste, in the first place, and nor should the thought be given to burning this material. The first thought should be reusing it, and if not for their original purposes, as no one, nowadays takes back old pallets for their original use, then for something else, such as the making of small items of furniture and such like. Only, and only, when all avenues of possible reuse have been exhausted should the thought go to turning this wood into a source for energy; not before.
© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009