The UK’s waste wood market continued to evolve last year despite two national lockdowns, according to figures compiled by the Wood Recyclers’ Association.

The proportion of waste wood used by large-scale biomass grew by three per cent to 63%, while the amount used as feedstock for the panel board industry also increased slightly from 25% in 2019 to 26% in 2020.

Waste wood being processed for animal bedding, other recycled products and reuse increased from 8% in 2019 to 9% in 2020.

However, small scale biomass usage reduced from 2% in 2019 to 1% in 2020.  Exports also reduced from 190,000 tonnes in 2019 to 92,000 tonnes in 2020, but imports increased from 20,000 tonnes in 2019 to 82,000 tonnes last year.

The total amount of waste wood collected in 2020 was 4,050,000 tonnes, approximately 10% lower than in 2019 when it was 4.5 million tonnes.

The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA), which has collated the figures via its annual members’ survey, said the picture looks good for the industry for 2021 and beyond.

Richard Coulson, Chair of the WRA, said: “We’re pleased to see that the industry continued to function and even grow in 2020, despite the fact that the amount of waste wood available was down by 10%. We attribute this to a direct impact of the closure of HWRCs during the first lockdown, combined with reduced commercial activity for part of the year.

“However, a summer and autumn of DIY projects certainly helped to boost the stockpiles again and we have started 2021 in great shape with well-developed markets for all types of waste wood, including lower grade and mixed waste wood.”

This year the WRA is forecasting that 2.7 million tonnes of waste wood will be consumed by Chapter IV compliant biomass facilities, a steady growth on previous years towards the three million tonnes of capacity these facilities will provide once the newer plants are fully operational. In addition one million tonnes will go to panel board manufacture, 500,000 tonnes of clean untreated material will go for animal bedding and other high-value recycling, and small scale biomass and re-use will continue to grow.


Richard continued: “Two positive outcomes of last year’s second lockdown for our industry were that there was in reality no bonfire night, thus no loss of wood to the market place through bonfires. Plus a reduction in exports and increase in imports. These factors combined with some extended outages at biomass plants, meant the sector did not suffer the usual seasonal variation of reduced wood waste availability through the winter. This has resulted in the UK waste wood supply-chain starting 2021 with good stocks. 

“For 2021 we are predicting there will still be a small amount of export, but the UK is likely to become a net importer of waste wood as domestic demand for material increases,” he added.

The WRA is the trade body for the waste wood market in the UK. It has more 100 members and represents over 90% of the UK’s waste wood recyclers and reprocessors.


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