Wood Recycling for the Construction Industry (Don’t Let Your Money Get Hauled Away!)
After concrete, wood is the second greatest component of construction and demolition (C&D) waste. Nationwide, wood contributes between 20-30% of all C&D related debris and it accounts for almost 10% of all material sent to landfills each year.
But unlike concrete and steel, which have relatively high recycling rates (98% and 82% respectively), lots of C&D derived wood waste goes straight into the dumpster and then to landfill, costing construction companies heavily. Click here to read our article on concrete recycling.
And worse still, according to a U.K. study, as much as 10-15% of wood procured for new construction projects ends up in recycling or waste streams without being used at all.
Sources of C&D Wood Waste
The good news is that many types of timber can be recycled. But C&D waste wood can come in a variety of forms. The major sources of wood waste derived from construction are:
- Medium density fiberboard (MDF)
- Window frames
- Door frames
- Fence panels
- Tree debris
Simple Operational Changes to Recover and Recycle More Wood
There are a number of quick and easy changes that your sites can make to enable your organization to capture more wood for recycling and reuse.
- Allow time at the start of the project for sufficient waste management planning (click here to see our article on best practices for construction waste management).
- Provide site staff with training and education on safe handling of waste, together with waste reduction methodologies, and familiarization with the site plan and waste storage locations
- Create a secure, weatherproof storage area to protect materials from accidental and weather damage while they are awaiting pickup
- Separate different grades of wood waste to prevent contamination and increase recoverability
- Procure licensed haulers who are able to take your waste wood materials to suitable construction waste recycling companies
How is Wood Waste Recovered and Recycled?
Wood waste from C&D activities is typically sent to wood recycling companies for processing, although a small market exists for salvaged timbers, boards or other components.
At construction recycling facilities, the C&D related wood material is initially sorted and then fed to an in-feed system. Large pieces of wood debris are treated with hydraulic shears or sent through compactors to reduce material size, in order for them to be processed in a wood grinding system.
Conveyor systems include features that allow for further sorting of foreign materials, including ferrous metal, before the wood enters the grinding equipment. After screening to the size required for a particular fiber requirement, the product is then sold to processing facilities for recycling into new products.
Potential End Uses for Reclaimed or Recycled Wood
The markets for the recovery and reuse of lumber are rapidly growing, albeit still representing a small niche in terms of overall volume of C&D derived wood waste. For example, recovered wood is now commonly used by architects and homeowners – by segregating suitable wood from your sites, this could generate a new revenue stream for the business especially since recovered lumber often sells at a premium to new material.
There are many applications and materials that wood reclaimed or recycled from the construction and demolition industries can be used for:
- Manufacture of chipboard and fiberboard
- Manufacture of presswood pallets
- Production of pathways and children’s play surfaces
- Bedding materials for animals
- Production of remanufactured products, including fiber composites
- Landscaping mulch and architectural components
- Fuel sources for commercial markets, including logs and fuel chips
- Biofuel for WtE (Waste to Energy) plants, specifically incineration plants
- Liquid fuels e.g., ethanol and methanol
For the purposes of treatment, wood is often graded into four categories:
- Clean recycled wood – Material produced from pallets and secondary manufacture etc and suitable for producing animal bedding and mulches
- Industrial feedstock grade – Clean wood, plus C&D waste, this is suitable for making materials such as panelboard
- Fuel grade – Both the grades of material from above, plus that from municipal collections and civic amenity sites, suitable for biomass fuel
- Hazardous waste – This includes all grades of wood including treated material such as fencing, utility poles (a.k.a. telephone poles) and trackwork. This waste wood requires disposal at special facilities
However, there are some common limitations that prevent sites from recycling as much wood as they would like. These can include:
- Limited waste storage facilities on site
- Limited construction recycling facilities suitably close to the site for materials to be sent to
- Unknown contamination levels
- High recovery costs, leading to low profitability
- A limited marketplace due to the inherently high contamination levels associated with reclaimed wood
- Practical challenges in recycling wood due to the contamination of materials such as nails, staples, adhesives and plastics
- Local government policies further limiting the possible end uses of wood reclaimed from the C&D industry
NWA Ensures Optimal Construction Recycling Levels
If you’re looking for a construction waste recycling company that can tailor waste management plans to your sites’ unique requirements, optimize material recovery and reduce waste disposal costs, then National Waste Associates (NWA) is the company for you.
The waste minimization experts at NWA work directly with each construction site to overcome any hurdles that are preventing them from achieving optimal waste management. We constantly analyze the market to find the most environmentally and financially advantageous treatment methodologies, and diligently screen vendors to ensure we provide you with safe, cost efficient collections. Not just for wood recycling, but for every material that a construction project generates.
And with our in-depth knowledge of sustainable waste management and recycling law compliance, we’ll make sure your operations are futureproofed from changes in legislation that might impact your operations.
Don’t waste money on wood!
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