The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) is making an urgent appeal for waste wood samples from the demolition of buildings built before 2007 in a bid to avert what it sees as a potential crisis that could cost the demolition sector over a 100 million pounds a year.

The trade body is calling on demolition companies to take part in a national sampling programme, being led by the WRA and supported by the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC), aimed at identifying which demolition waste wood items are hazardous.

Without these tests taking place, the WRA says the Environment Agency (EA) will assume all demolition waste wood from this period is hazardous, and it will be the responsibility of the waste generator to prove otherwise before the waste can be moved from their site.

Julia Turner, the WRA’s Executive Director who is leading the project, said: “If the demolition contractors don’t actively engage with us now and allow the testing of these specific waste wood items to take place, it will  have a catastrophic effect on the whole industry and indeed environment by increasing hazardous disposal.

“We know there is actually less hazardous material in the demolition sector based on the chemical wood treatments applied at that time, than any of us originally believed. However, if we don’t prove what is hazardous now, the demolition sector will be left footing the bill to prove it themselves on a job-by-job basis. By far the simplest and cheapest way forward for everyone concerned is to do the testing now as part of the bigger project,” she added.

The WRA and the NFDC are looking for samples of structural timbers, tilling battens and external joinery from pre-2007 buildings to test for their potential hazardous content. 

There is already a sampling process in place which has been approved by the Environment Agency as part of the wider project. However, time is running out, as the  Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) which allows this project to take place, runs out at the end of July 2020 (see Editor’s notes for explanation).

Once the RPS is withdrawn, the situation will revert back to normal Duty of Care where the producer, (ie, the demolition contractor) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the law. This will mean they will either have to provide evidence that their waste wood materials are non hazardous prior to being allowed to move them from their site, or they will have to pay additional fees to send the material for energy recovery in specialist incinerators.

“If we end up with a situation where the demolition contractors have to prove the material is non-hazardous before they can move it from their site, it will be disastrous and costly for demolition companies,” said Julia.

“They will be required by law to carry out the testing work before they can pass material onto a skip company or wood reprocessor. Furthermore, it can be a lengthy process to get the tests done – in some cases as long as ten days – which could result in a backlog of waste wood material piling up on sites not suitable for storage.”

As well as organising and paying for the tests, the demolition contractor would have to have two skips to segregate between known non-hazardous waste wood and suspected hazardous waste wood on their site, otherwise all the wood will be deemed hazardous. Current disposal costs for this is in excess of £250 per tonne, with very limited disposal capacity, meaning prices will inevitably rise.

The WRA estimates there is potentially 400,000 tonnes of material involved in this sector, meaning the potential cost to the demolition industry of hazardous disposal could be over £100 million per year.

“Another huge concern around all of this is that the UK only has few outlets that can take hazardous waste wood,” added Julia. “So there is also a big risk that it will end up being shipped to Europe which will be at even higher cost to demolition contractors.”

The WRA and the NFDC are now appealing for any company that can help, to get in touch with them as soon as possible. They are also interested in speaking to major construction and demolition companies who they believe may already have historical data as to the content of waste wood from demolition projects that could be useful for this project.

If you think you can help or would like further information please contact Julia Turner by email at or by phoning 07903 251287.


Notes To Editors:

Background to the Waste Wood Classification Project

The Waste Wood Classification Project began in 2017 at the request of the Environment Agency (EA). It is being led by the Wood Recyclers’ Association with the assistance of many other trade bodies and agencies, including the EA and the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC).

The aim of the project is ultimately to ensure that waste wood in the UK is being properly classified at the front end of the recycling chain, and processed for the appropriate end uses.

While the project is being carried out, the EA has issued an RPS (valid until July 31st 2020), which states that mixed waste wood must only be used for panel board feedstock or biomass destined for Chapter IV WID Compliant boilers. 

THE WRA was tasked with testing 300 samples of mixed waste wood from Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), waste transfer stations and waste wood processors to examine what the hazardous content is. 

This part of the project is now over half way through the sampling process and the results are coming back as expected with less than 1% of material showing a hazardous content.

Alongside the HWRC project, the Construction and Demolition sector was tasked with sampling waste wood materials from pre-2007 buildings. In this case they only needed to prove that certain materials were hazardous and were required to carry out testing on 50 samples.

The results so far have proven the opposite: in fact the materials thought to be hazardous are not coming back as hazardous. However, they haven’t received enough samples to make these results conclusive.

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