What Does the Future of Wood Recycling Look Like?

In a recent webinar, TOMRA poses the question "what is the future of wood recycling?"

Liz Bothwell, Head of Content & Marketing

November 9, 2022

3 Min Read
What Does the Future of Wood Recycling Look Like?

A recent webinar hosted by TOMRA asked, “What is the future of wood recycling?” TOMRA’s mission is to transform how the planet's resources are obtained, used and reused, to enable a world without waste; the company provides technology-based advanced collection and sorting systems.

The speakers on the webinar were: Jan-Olof Fechter, Material Expert and Technique Engineer, IKEA of Sweden AB; Jose Matas, Segment Manager Europe Wood, TOMRA; and Murat Sanli, Wood Sales Engineer, TOMRA. The discussion covered current market trends; how waste wood recycling is advancing the circular economy; the importance of recycled wood for manufacturers, and more.

Matas began by speaking about market trends and acknowledged difficulties over the past few years due to supply chain issues, economic and political challenges around the world, and Europe’s energy crisis. He then showed a chart of price trends in waste wood, which showed that every category of waste wood is up significantly over the past year. He also stated that buying fresh wood is approximately twice as expensive as buying recycled wood—so, there is great value to be unlocked in the latter.

Fechter went on to speak about IKEA’s efforts to create circularity in the furniture industry. He serves as the engineer in charge of the recycled wood the company purchases, in the form of particleboard and fiberboard. He noted that IKEA is working towards circularity in several ways. The first is its buyback program, in which it takes furniture customers no longer want; refurbishes it; and tries to resell it. The company also does a lot of leasing for business customers, which capitalizes on the idea of reuse.

Finally, Fechter spoke about IKEA’S current efforts and future goals in using recycled wood in its products; in 2020, it used 25% recycled content, and it would like to greatly increase this amount. By 2030, the company aims to achieve 80% recycled content for particleboard, and 15% for MDF and HDF. “Reusing is the future, but recycling is what we can do today for the environment.” Ultimately, the company’s objective is to achieve affordability and sustainability at the same time: “efficiency with responsibility, and low costs but not at any cost.” 

Sanli then spoke about Tomra’s holistic approach to achieving the full potential of waste wood. He started by discussing the collection process and noted that there is a lot of potential in mixed waste streams. “Our first aim is to recover wood from these streams where the wood content is big enough that it makes sense to sort it out.” Mono wood streams are somewhat less complicated because sorting is unnecessary, and the processing of such can begin with cleaning for impurities. Sanil spoke about the various methods of cleaning and advancements including X-ray and sensor-based technologies. He noted that TOMRA’s deep learning solution has been a “game changer” that can differentiate wood chips by material types, generate wood fractions by quality, and prioritize by material types.

During the Q&A portion of the webinar, the speakers fielded questions about the long-term outlook for recycled wood, how to encourage the recycling of wood, and more. Matas addressed the recycling possibilities for MDF, which he indicated is “the future of recycling.” He explained that it is possible to recover the fibers within MDF, and this will continue to be increasingly important. Another question centered on reuse versus recycling around the world. Fecther noted that Italy is using 100% recycled wood in its particleboard—and that the European Union in general is around 36%, with Spain and Portugal leading the way.

About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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