Government urged to recognise value of waste wood biomass

The Wood Recyclers’ Association has urged the Government to reflect the value waste wood biomass adds to the UK’s efforts to decarbonise in its Biomass Strategy 2022.

In its response to a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy consultation, the WRA stressed that there is a limit to the amount of times wood can be effectively recycled, and following that process it makes sense that the wood is then recovered as biomass fuel rather than being put into landfill.

Richard Coulson, chair of the WRA, said: “The UK is now a success story in respect of waste wood. We can respect the demands of the waste hierarchy of reuse, recycle then recover, and also satisfy all end user demand because we have the capacity to divert all waste wood from landfill, saving the methane emissions which are circa 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.”

The UK currently produces around 4.5m tonnes of waste wood a year, for which there is an equal end use demand. The UK waste wood market is structured for environmental compliance in that the higher quality waste wood is recycled into animal bedding or panel board (1.5m tonnes) and the balance of lower quality mixed waste wood (3m tonnes) is used as a fuel by biomass power plants which are compliant with the latest regulatory standards (Industrial Emissions Directive – Chapter IV).

“The biomass facilities using waste wood in the UK operate under ROC or RHI subsidies,” said Richard. “These will end in an average of 15 years. and we are therefore asking the Government to be mindful of this and consider future support mechanisms for the industry. Without that there is a risk that 3m tonnes of UK waste wood could end up with no market.”

Chapter IV Biomass plants in the UK are highly regulated and use advanced abatement technologies to control emissions within tight parameters, making them compliant with the Industrial Emissions Directive. Furthermore, waste wood biomass produces no negative impacts in respect of land-use, food security or biodiversity.

The WRA is also asking the government to ensure that its environmental and energy policies are aligned. This follows the publication of the Waste Management Plan For England by DEFRA in January this year, which suggested that recovery (power and/or heat generation) is less favourable than recycling.

Richard added: “This is not the case for waste wood, because lower-quality mixed waste wood is not always suitable for recycling. Biomass therefore provides a valuable end market for that 3m tonnes of material, which may otherwise be destined for landfill.”

The WRA also believes that as chemicals and transport fuels made from waste become increasingly important, waste wood may become a feedstock option for these sectors.

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