Wood Waste in Sydney… What’s the Story?

Humanity has been using wood since the dawn of time. We’ve used wood to make tools, to build shelter, to make fire… and for many other uses. These days, wood is still a huge part of the construction industry, furniture making, and much more. Unfortunately, that means it’s also a very common waste type here in Sydney, and the rest of Australia.

At Sydney City Rubbish, we find ourselves removing wood waste regularly, from a wide range of businesses and homes. We always ensure that this type of rubbish is dealt with in the most sustainable fashion possible. However, the fact is that most wood waste ends up in landfills, and that’s simply not good enough.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at wood waste and how we can all do our part to ensure that it is dealt with in the most eco-friendly manner possible.

How much wood waste are we producing?

It’s difficult to know exactly how much wood waste we are producing in New South Wales and the whole of Australia. Here are some figures from back in 2004:

NSW disposed of roughly 315,000 tonnes of wood waste into landfills.
131,000 tonnes were recycled.
In total, 446,000 tonnes of wood waste were generated annually in NSW.

More recent studies suggest that the amount of wood waste produced each year makes up about 6% of all waste taken to landfills across Australia. While that may not sound like much, that small percentage represents hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste that isn’t being reused or recycled… a poor result.

Where does it come from?

The biggest producer of wood waste in Australia is the construction and demolition industry. Building projects and demolition projects result in a wide range of timber waste, such as offcuts, beams, broken-up pieces (from mechanised demolition), and much more. This timber can be either treated or untreated and will come in a wide range of conditions.

At Sydney City Rubbish, we also deal with a wide range of furniture waste, and much of it is made up of wood and timber. We often remove furniture waste from offices and other businesses, as well as from domestic settings. That wooden furniture usually consists of:

– Dining tables
– Workstations and desks
– Coffee tables
– Chairs
– Shelving and storage units.

Again, the quality of the wood that these items are made from will vary greatly, and that often determines (along with the condition of the furniture) what happens at the next step.

What are we doing with wood waste?

There’s good news and there’s bad news when it comes to how we’re dealing with wood waste. As we mentioned earlier, the majority of wood waste is ending up in landfills. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that there are many ways that businesses are dealing with their wood and timber waste more sustainably.

Exporting wood waste

Many countries export their wood waste, to great effect. For instance, back in 2020, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, the top exporters of sawdust, wood waste or scrap wood were the USA ($1.1B worth), Canada ($479M), Latvia ($379M), Vietnam ($396M) and Russia ($316M). This waste is used in a variety of ways by the importing countries, but the important thing is that it isn’t simply ending up in landfills.

Wood waste as biofuel

There are several different forms of renewable energy that are used in Australia. Those include:

– Solar
– Wind
– Tidal
– Hydro
– Geothermal, and;
– Bioenergy.

Bioenergy is created by burning biofuels, which are organic materials mostly made up of wood waste. In Australia, we generate heat and electricity by burning sugar cane residue and wood waste, which comes from sawmills and pulp mills. This is an excellent result for the environment, as it means we’re making use of 100% of the material (or close to).

Recycling wood waste

Wood waste can be recycled into a wide range of materials, for use in other industries. For instance, untreated woods can be turned into wood chips, for use in construction and landscaping. Untreated wood can also be used to make paper pulp. Unfortunately, the prospect of recycling treated wood such as pine used in construction is narrow.

This is why it’s critical to do as much as possible to keep treated wood out of the waste stream and reuse it in the building industry. If treated timber does end up in landfills, it can cause soil contamination and harm flora and fauna, particularly if compounds find their way into waterways.

Reusing wood waste

These days, construction companies, both large and small, are becoming more conscious of where their wood waste is going. There are more initiatives than ever to ensure that as much waste is reused as possible.

This includes waste separation on building sites, to ensure that good quality offcuts are on hand for re-use if need be. What’s more, some companies are passing on their surplus materials and offcuts to other buildings, and building suppliers, to ensure they are used.

The market for reusing timber from demolition is a strong one, with an estimated 60,000 cubic metres of timber reused annually. There are sizeable economic returns in this space, with some quality recycled Australian hardwoods fetching upwards of $1000 per cubic metre. This is excellent news as it provides added incentive for the resale of high-quality used timber.

There are some exciting endeavours overseas, also. For instance, in Finland, construction firms are carefully sorting their wood waste on-site, so that it can be more effectively recycled and repurposed, minimising the amount of waste produced.

Reusing office furniture

It’s quite easy to find a second home for office and domestic furniture, particularly if it is still in prime condition. Hiring a professional Sydney rubbish removal company is the best way to ensure that your old office furniture is finding a new home, or at worst, being recycled at a certified facility.

How can we be better?

Education on wood waste is the way forward. The more we know about it, the better placed we are to ensure we’re disposing of it in the most eco-friendly way possible. With a stronger commitment to sustainability, we can all do our part to ensure we’re more responsible with our precious natural resources.

Hire a professional Sydney rubbish removal company today

At Sydney Rubbish Removal, we always prioritise sustainable waste management in Sydney. Hiring us is a win for both you and the environment, and we’ll always deliver exceptional service. If you need office junk removed, or have piles of timber waste from your demolition project, give Sydney City Rubbish a call today. We’re ready to help.

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