Climate of change

Climate of Change

ARTICLE · By David Hopkins  · 06 Feb 2020

The Extinction Rebellion protests this year have touched the conscience of homeowners and consumers nationwide. While many can easily see the connection between carbon emissions and driving cars or flying less frequently – perhaps even with food miles and local sourcing.

Yet few consumers are taking this further into the products that create their household environments, from windows, doors and furniture, to kitchen cupboards, worktops, stairs and shelving. Is this an emerging marketing opportunity for the wood industries?

Tapping into today’s agendas means going further than the ‘good news’ we are all used to relating about timber and its ability to lock away CO2 within its fibre for the lifetime of the product. With the continued expansion of city living around the world, we should also familiarise ourselves with the principles of the Circular Economy.

We should come to understand more about the role that the solid timber, laminated products and sheet materials we sell and use have to play in providing resources for future generations.

Wood-based panel products are perhaps ahead of the game in this respect. Wood fibres from timber processing come into the materials flow, going out again as all manner of different panels, with and without additional decorative surfaces.

Technology is now being piloted to recycle MDF, which will be of interest to all in the joinery and construction sectors.

It is estimated that some 40 years’ worth of MDF production is currently fitted in UK buildings, and a further 75 million tonnes of MDF is produced anew each year.

The manufacture of items made from MDF is also estimated to waste approximately 20% of the material used, costing UK industry around £300 million per annum.

The company MDF Recovery is working with, amongst others, members of the Timber Trade Federation, to institute ways of recycling MDF, resulting both from production and post-installation.

Courtesy of Steico

One of the major players in the field, TTF member,
W Howard Group, is actively at the forefront of developments.

Wood fibre reclaimed from MDF manufacture and use may go back into MDF production, or, for example, become wood fibre insulation.

Other materials reclaimed from MDF production can potentially be used for energy recovery.

Laminated products of course reduce waste, and there is an increasing move towards producing laminated hardwoods for the joinery sector, as well as the now familiar laminated softwoods.

Courtesy of W Howard

The joinery sector too has been ahead of its time in re-using any remaining wood waste as biomass for energy production.

All things considered, working together across disciplines in the wood supply chain has created a real climate of change, with companies taking greater account of their impacts, from sustainable sourcing to recycling and re-use of materials.

As we approach the start of the next decade, we should take a moment to celebrate the wood industries’ achievements to date.

We must also never stop looking forward at the impacts of all the materials we used today on tomorrow’s environment, cutting out those which, in truth, should have no place in the sustainable wood product manufacture of the future.

Courtesy of James Latham

This article was first published in Woodworking News, December 2019.