Recycled timber

Australia recycled timber represents as little as 10% of our scrap timber – the remainder ends up in a landfill. This means we lose out to the massive environmental and economic advantages of giving timber a second life. Allform Timber is focused on reducing the use of landfill by carefully sourcing high-quality scrap timber and using it to develop the exquisite pieces of timber furnituretimber tabletops, and timber vanity tops

As the usage of engineered wood in construction continues to grow, the question of how previously used wood can be economically recycled into viable products for that industry needs to be addressed.

While products such a cross-laminated wood (CLT) and glued laminated timber(glulam) play an increasing role in the construction industry, the technical and logistical issues (such as the presence of contaminants) involved with the process of recycled timber, ensures that most scrap timber winds up being sent to landfill rather than as an alternative product.

In order to resolve this problem, we need to know:

  • What exactly are the contaminants found in recycled timber,
  • The impact that such contaminants have on the recycled timber process,
  • How to overcome these problems.

A contaminant in waste timber may be any substance embedded inside the body of the timber that will undermine its chemical or structural integrity. Such contaminants include:

  • metals,
  • glass,
  • newspaper,
  • plastic,
  • rubber, and
  • chemically treated wood.

Chemically treated woods and metals are of particular relevance when considering the viability of recycling scrap timber on a large scale.

As an example, a large variety of chemical treatment is applied to structural wood to provide weather protection or waterproofing and removing such substances can be expensive and may even compromise the structural integrity of timber, making it weaker and less long-lasting.

Metals are another substantial recycling impediment with small items such as screws and nails or big structural fittings having to be removed at great cost in the recycling process. Removing such metal objects is often painstaking, expensive and cause a significant annoyance for recyclers. Metal in scrap timber can also lead to damage to wood recycling machines and may be harmful to users of the final product.

All of that, naturally, adds extra time, cost and complexity to the recycling procedure and in many cases making recycled timber a much less appealing option than landfill.

The issue of how much scrap timber Australia sends to landfill is significant. Obviously the more we can reclaim, the less we have to harvest from new growth forests. In addition, the perception is that the natural characteristics of scrap timber make it an easily recyclable material with substantial reuse potential offering significant environmental benefits. However, the reality is somewhat different and needs to be accessed on a case by case basis.

Aside from the financial cost of sending scrap timber to landfill, it also represents a substantial ecological impact on the environment. In addition, continuing to ship timber waste to a landfill represents a significant missed opportunity. The high cost, recycling timber, also generates new opportunities for energy and timber businesses and may have been a substantial new supply of low-carbon heating and electricity.”

The obvious environmental advantages of recycling timber need to be measured against the cost-effectiveness, practicality, and quality of products produced. A little lateral thinking can often change the benefits analysis in favour of the recycled product. For instance, the untreated woods and low hazard glues utilized in CLT panels (available cheaply from decommissioned buildings), can often create a product suitable as a biomass fuel.

It is important to contribute to the sustainability of the planet by being innovative in finding a second life for scrap timber, rather than simply creating more landfill.

August 23, 2019

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