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WRA urges UK Government to recognise waste wood biomass value

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The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) has urged the UK Government to recognise the value that waste wood biomass adds to the UK’s efforts to decarbonise when developing its Biomass Strategy 2022.

In its response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) call for evidence consultation, the WRA stressed that there is a limit to the amount of times wood can be effectively recycled. Following that process, the WRA said it makes sense that the wood is then recovered as biomass fuel rather than being sent to landfill.

“The UK is now a success story in respect of waste wood,” said WRA chair Richard Coulson.

“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 4.5 million 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 (1.5 million tonnes) and the balance of lower quality mixed waste wood (3 million 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 Renewable Heat Incentive subsidies,” said Coulson.

“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 3 million 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, said the WRA, making them compliant with the Industrial Emissions Directive. Additionally, 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 the Department for Environmental, Food & Rural Affairs in January, which suggested that recovery (power and/or heat generation) is less favourable than recycling.

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

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