Rather than burning virgin timber as fuel for energy generation – and thereby releasing tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change – Norbord argues for the ‘cascade of use’ philosophy. It is much more efficient to process virgin timber into added-value products, such as wood panels, that are used in the housing and construction industry. It is only when the wood products come to the end of their use, and can no longer be recycled or upcycled, that the timber element should be considered for burning for energy.
What is a circular economy and cascade of use and why will it help?
A circular economy is a system designed to promote maximum use from resources whilst minimising waste and pollution.
To ensure woody biomass is part of a circular economy, a cascade of use is vital. A cascade of use gives priority to the most efficient and least wasteful use. It prioritises uses that optimise the material or resource over burning or landfill, and thus protects them from being wasted. In the UK, very little genuine ‘waste’ wood is available. There are many ways that the majority of woody materials such as forest thinnings, sawmill residues and post-consumer wood waste can be recycled, reused and repurposed, locking embedded carbon away for decades. Unfortunately, much of this wood gets burnt to generate energy, releasing this carbon in an instant.
A robust cascade of use would prevent this waste, whilst protecting the resource and the environment. A cascade of use for wood can help to:
• Increase availability of wood as a raw material
• Slow the rate of CO2 release from burning wood
• Reduce the impact on us and the environment by keeping the CO2 locked
• Prioritise the use of wood for higher value products
• Contribute to a better global carbon balance
• Create jobs and safeguard traditional craft skills
What are the five steps of a cascade of use?:
1. Use - Products enter the cascade of use at their initial purpose; for example wood from logging used for building.
2. Reuse - Products are checked, cleaned or repaired so they can be re-used. For example, offcuts and sawdust from the sawmilling process can be used to make boards such as MDF.
3. Recycling - Waste materials are reprocessed into secondary products such as particleboard and then further recycled until the end of their usable life.
4. Recovery - Any process that recovers waste or by-products which can be reprocessed for an additional use. The wood panels industry has the ability in many cases to recover several times post-consumer wood waste and reconvert the material once again into further product for use in the construction and furniture industries, thus ensuring that embedded carbon remains locked for several decades.
5. Disposal - The final stage of the cascade of use, at the absolute end of the material's life, when no valuable benefit can be gained from reprocessing or recovery. At this stage, it is sensible to extract any energy value from the wood - but not whilst better environmental or economic options exist.
For further information on Norbord, call 01786 812 921 or visit www.usewoodwisely.co.uk to have your say; or www.norbord.co.uk