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2023 Breakthrough: UK Waste Wood Processing Surpasses 97%

14th June 2024

The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) has announced that more than 97% of UK waste wood underwent processing in 2023, marking a significant achievement for the industry.

Despite stagnant waste wood arisings of around 4.5 million tonnes in the UK last year, the volume processed rose from 4.312 million tonnes in 2022 to 4.408 million tonnes in 2023. This increase reflects continued growth following disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The figures are compiled from the WRA’s comprehensive annual member survey and other relevant data sources.

WRA members, encompassing approximately 90% of the market, managed to process 3.92 million tonnes of waste wood.

Key Usage Trends

In 2023, large-scale biomass emerged as the largest consumer of waste wood, utilising 63% of the total volume, marking a 6.2% increase from 2022. The WRA emphasised the pivotal role of waste wood biomass in delivering secure, low-carbon baseload power.

Panel board production followed, accounting for 22% (963,000 tonnes) of the processed wood, a decline of 5% compared to the previous year. This drop is attributed to a sluggish housing market and the closure of the West Fraser South Molton plant.

Recycling and Reuse Efforts

Approximately 350,000 tonnes (8%) of waste wood found reuse in animal bedding, equine surfacing, and other recycling initiatives. Moreover, there was an uptick in pallet refurbishment and the reuse of wooden items through local authority programs.

Additional Insights

  • Exports/Imports: The net export/import balance surged to 205,000 tonnes from 130,000 tonnes in 2022, accounting for 5% of all processed wood. This increase was driven by heightened demand for biomass feedstock across Europe.
  • Small-Scale Biomass: Usage remained stable at 90,000 tonnes, comprising 2% of the market.
  • Informal Markets: The remaining waste wood, amounting to 4.5 million tonnes, is believed to enter informal channels, such as being used for bonfires or domestic burning.

These findings underscore the UK’s progress in waste wood management and utilisation, highlighting significant contributions to both environmental sustainability and renewable energy sectors.

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