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Community Wood Recycling: A Circular Economy Solution for Wood Waste

The challenge

In the United Kingdom, an estimated 4.5 million tonnes of wood waste is generated each year. Much of this comes from the construction and demolition sector. The vast majority of this timber is processed by the high-volume wood recycling industry into biomass for power stations, composite sheets like MDF, animal bedding, and landscape surfaces, but some still can find its way to landfill. Although it’s great to see how far recycling has come in recent decades, downcycling by chipping means that the timber cannot be reused in its original form. We provide an alternative that pushes this valuable material up the waste hierarchy and creates social value in local communities.

Our solution

The Community Wood Recycling network of wood recycling social enterprises works to ensure as much timber as possible is reused. We sort the wood we collect to find the best outcome. Longer lengths and sheet material are sold as affordable material for DIY in our network of wood stores. Shorter pieces are used to make handmade reclaimed timber furniture. In some areas we supply firewood for the local community. Anything that can’t be reused is recycled by chipping.

All this labour-intensive activity creates jobs, training and volunteering opportunities for people who are excluded from the workforce or facing social isolation.

How Does Community Wood Recycling Work?

· Waste wood is collected in 3.5 tonne caged trucks, reducing the CO2 and particulate in comparison with the conventional alternative of a skip lorry. We hand load our vehicles, giving our clients better value for money and transporting the waste more efficiently.

· The wood is carefully sorted for reuse where possible

· We take all non-hazardous wood including pallets

· We are correctly licensed, insured and supply Waste Transfer Notes. We have trained staff with CSCS cards and the correct PPE.

· We provide environmental reports and certificates of recycling

· Our reports can be used for Considerate Contractors and BREEAM

Richard Mehmed, Community Wood Recycling Managing Director, reflects on the impact of the network:

“By working collaboratively with the country’s top builders over the last 20 years, our nationwide network has saved more than 230,000 tonnes of waste wood to be sorted for potential reuse. This has created an estimated CO2 saving of 116,000. Over 6,000 people have passed through our network’s training and volunteering programme.

“When I see beautiful handmade products made from timber that would otherwise have been sent to be chipped, and hear the pride our trainees take in becoming valued members of our teams with a hopeful future ahead of them, I am inspired by the power of community reuse.”

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