Wood recyclers have questioned whether waste wood should be exported this winter amid concerns that high energy demand and the cost of living crisis might limit supply.

That was among the issues discussed by a panel of recyclers speaking at a session curated by the Wood Recyclers’ Association on the Wood Market at RWM and Letsrecycle Live on September 14.

Richard Jenkins, chief executive of Esken Renewables and a member of the WRA board, explained that the war in Ukraine has had “massive implications” for the global energy market, pushing up demand for energy in both Europe and the UK.

As a result, he said waste wood-fuelled biomass plants could play an important role “in the here and now” on delivering energy security for the UK – and that this needed to be taken into account with regards to exporting waste wood.

He said: “There is going to be an energy demand in Europe and there does need to be a balance on exporting a resource from the UK and that energy security in the UK going forward.”

Richard added that it was important that the government introduce a suitable mechanism to support biomass plants once the ROCs (Renewable Energy Certificates) regime ends – to help the sector continue to play an important role in delivering energy security and contributing to net zero targets.

Fellow panel member Matt Howarth, director at wood recycler A&A Recycling, explained that while a surge in DIY had created a glut of wood arisings during the pandemic, the supply of waste wood last winter had been tight – and could be even more so in 2022 with energy demand so high.

He commented: “We believe this winter is going to be a particularly tough one, certainly in terms of waste wood availability versus demand.”

Matt explained that the cost of living crisis could depress waste wood supply further and therefore called for the Government to explore measures to discourage exports – such as a temporary tax, ban or reform of the permitting system to allow more waste wood to be stored in the summer for the winter ahead.

He said: “At a time when we need as much energy more than ever in the UK are we going to export that fuel into a European market?”

Mark Hayton, WRA board member and director of EGGER Timberpak, agreed that exporting wood should only be viewed as a “short term measure” and advocated recyclers be given short term storage permits to avoid the need to export material.

Providing an update on the panelboard market, he said he was a “believer in biomass for the right uses”, but said that people should not forget panelboard as an important – and the original – outlet for waste wood.

He stressed the importance of the waste hierarchy and that only wood which could not be recycled should be used to generate energy and underlined the carbon benefits of recycled panelboard.

“We should be using the recycled fibre that we’ve got in the first, best place, possible”, he commented.

The panel discussion was chaired by WRA deputy chair Andy Hill, who also gave an overview of the waste wood market and outlined the role of the WRA in providing a voice for the wood recycling industry.

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