The Environment Agency (EA) has extended a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) on the use of mixed waste wood until January 2021, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Waste Wood Classification (WWC) Project is being led by the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) and aims 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.

The RPS 207 was due to come to an end this July, but due to the Coronavirus outbreak it has been extended until the end of January next year.

Julia Turner, Executive Director of the WRA, said: “We’re naturally relieved that the RPS has been extended as, due to the current lockdown situation, we are unable to source the remaining waste wood samples needed to complete the testing from HWRCs and demolition sites. We understand the EA is also very busy ealing with the outbreak so it makes sense that they have extended the RPS.”

To date, testing has taken place on 193 samples of fence posts and decking from Household Waste Recycling Centres. Only 12 of those returned some hazardous content, which equates to less than 0.1% of household waste wood sources. The WRA is aiming to test around 250 samples of this material in total.

Testing has also taken place of 92 samples of waste wood from the demolition sector, and only eight of those were found to be hazardous which is around 8.5%. This was lower than was anticipated for that particular sector so further testing is required to give us a clearer picture.

The Waste Wood Classification project began in the autumn of 2017 with the EA issuing the RPS at that point, stating that mixed waste wood must only be used for panel board feedstock or biomass destined for Chapter IV Compliant boilers, while the project work is carried out. Large scale sampling of waste wood and laboratory work has been taking place since, involving fence posts and decking samples from HWRCs and structural timbers, tiling battens and external joinery from pre-2007 demolition projects.

The overall aim is to develop two sets of guidance for operators, one by the WRA for the waste wood industry and one produced by the National Federation of Demolition Contractors for the demolition sector.

The guidance will include a ‘simple to follow’ visual guide on how to classify each waste wood item on whether it is clean and untreated, treated but non-hazardous or treated and hazardous.  This will enable all those involved in the collection, transfer and treatment of waste wood to easily identify every kind of waste wood item that may enter the waste stream from household, industrial, agricultural and construction/demolition sources by using clear pictorial references.

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