Wood Waste as a Resource
Waste reduction has strong economic and environmental benefits. Many communities can expect zero waste when they shift from a “take, make and throw away” model to a circular economy where end of life materials are used to create new products.
The wood packaging industry in North America has one of the highest rates of recycling exceeding other forms of industrial and consumer packaging such as aluminum, paper and plastic. Wood packaging and pallets at the end of life are re-processed and the resulting wood fiber is re-used in such products as landscape mulch, animal bedding, soil enhancements, and wood particle board or used in bioenergy.
Wooden pallets are a success story in solid wood recycling in the United States. In 2011, the most recent year for which detailed data are available, an estimated 474 million pallets were recovered for recycling.1 These recovered pallets were repurposed into recycled pallets or were processed into new wood fiber products with very low levels of wood waste ending up in land fill.
Industrial and consumer packaging handled by municipalities include such materials as plastics, steel and aluminum cans, glass containers and cardboard containers. Wood pallets and packaging are extensively reused many times over and recycled at end of life. Wood packaging is regarded as an insignificant waste issue due to the success of the reuse and recycling programs in place.2
Related Papers & Sources
- Pallet Re-Use and Recycling Saves High Value Material from Landfills (College of Natural Resources, Engagement Matters)
- Wood Pallets and Landfills – Status and Opportunities for Economic Recovery and Recycling (USDA Forest Service & Virginia Tech, 1998)
- The Current State of Wood Reuse and Recycling in North America and Recommendations for Improvements (Dovetail Partners, May 2013)
- North American Wood Waste Forum. Summary of Group Feedback, February 2–3, 2012 (USDA, July 2012)
- Trends in the Use of Wood Products for Distribution Packaging Cooperative Agreement No. 11-CA11330142-13 Robert J. Bush Department of Sustainable Biomaterials Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Virginia and Philip A. Araman Research Team Leader USDA – Forest Service Southern Research Station Blacksburg, Virginia April 2014 (Revised May 2015)
- State of Waste Management in Canada Prepared for: Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment,2014
- Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and Construction and Demolition (C&D) Wood Waste Generation and Recovery in the United States. Dr. S.Bratkovitch, Dr. J Howe Dr. J. Bowyer, Dr.E.Pepke, F Fernholz September 2014
- Recovering Wood for Reuse and Recycling: A United States Perspective. Proceedings: Management of Recovered Wood Recycling, Bioenergy and Other Options, R. Falk and D. McKeever. Christos Gallis, Ed., April 22-24, 2004.