The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) is warning that the UK could be facing an unnecessary shortage of waste wood next winter if regulators don’t resolve permitting issues.

Andy Hill, Chair of the WRA, said this winter had seen the first real scarcity of waste wood in the UK caused by a combination of higher demand and an unusually long and cold winter.

And he has warned that if waste wood operators continue to face delays in receiving Fire Prevention Plans (FPP) and Environmental Permits, next winter could see demand outstripping the amount available for supply.

“We are now approaching a normal summer period and people are beginning to build up stocks again,” said Andy. “But we had a very long winter which created a real scarcity of waste wood despite the fact very few of the new biomass plants are currently operational.”

Andy said by next winter there will be a structural change in the UK, with new biomass plants due to come online increasing demand for waste wood by an additional 1 million tonnes.  

“If the Environment Agency doesn’t get to the point where it can grant FPPs and permits to waste wood operators there is a real danger there will be a shortage of material both for the biomass plants and existing markets including panel board,” said Andy.

“It’s now critical that the EA appreciates how the market has developed. Regulation needs to evolve and be fit for purpose to ensure its needs can be met. 

“I urge the EA to recognise this step change; many reprocessors have invested heavily in fire detection equipment and if they can show contractually that they have the off-take for stocks built through the summer, the EA should be granting them permits now to ensure a smooth supply profile for the winter months. It would be appalling to think that, as last summer, waste wood goes to landfill for a few months because of a continual stalling in the granting of permits.”

The WRA has developed a draft FPP waste wood template to enable operators in the sector to more easily gain standard and non standard FPPs from the EA.

The draft template is currently with the EA awaiting approval. Once approved, it will be the first published sector specific template.  The template contains three sections focusing on information about specific sites, preventing fires and reducing the impact of fires should they occur.  It is targeted at large & small operators for both standard & non-standard FPPs. 

Any operator handling combustible material for recycling or reprocessing needs to obtain an approved FPP in order to be granted an Environmental Permit. Companies setting up new sites, requiring new permits or who  have experienced a fire are the first in line to be required to gain the new FPPs.

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