Pollution Prevention Opportunity

Many wood product manufacturers can significantly decrease their solid waste disposal costs by reducing the amount of wood waste sent to landfills. Disposal costs per ton may be relatively low for pulp mills and similar companies who dispose of solid waste in their own private landfills. However, these landfills are rapidly filling up, requiring construction of new landfills costing millions.

Wood Waste Reduction and Recycling

There are companies and individuals in Georgia that will take wood waste for beneficial reuse. Some will pay for wood waste; others will charge for pickup and transportation. Marketability depends on factors such as moisture content, level of soil or metal contamination, size of the pieces, variation in piece size, and quantity.

Energy Generation Pulp mills can use large quantities of chipped wood as fuel to power steam and generate electricity. Some mills burn wood exclusively because it provides a clean burning, low sulfur fuel. Lumber yards that kiln dry wood sometimes burn wood as a heat source. Some lumber yards will accept sawdust and offcuts from their customers. Plywood, particle board, and timber-derived chemical businesses also burn wood for power generation. Keeping the moisture and foreign material content low improves marketability as fuel.

Sawdust Brokers Some companies will buy or accept wood waste which they then sell to manufacturers that use wood as a raw material or fuel. Brokers provide the service of pooling smaller amounts of wood waste in order to provide large quantities to other companies. Some buyers of wood from brokers include particle and fiber board manufacturers, pulp mills, chemical plants, chicken farms, and mulch manufacturers.

Mulching and Composting Wood waste is sometimes mulched or composted to create beneficial products. Mulching consists of grinding wood waste into smaller pieces that can be used as ground covering or outdoor decoration. The value of mulch is greatly dependent upon appearance. For example, large pine bark nuggets and cypress mulch are salable products; Christmas tree mulch is almost never sold.

Composting allows biological waste such as wood to decay into soil. Wood, grass clippings, vegetable matter, and mineral wastes can be blended and allowed to decay.

The resulting soil can be sold in truckload or bag quantities.

Mulching and composting can be done on a large or small scale. Some companies and individuals mulch and compost for their own use. Information on mulching and composting can be obtained from the library, county extension agents, universities, and trade magazines such as BioCycle, Waste Age, and Resource Recycling.

Waste Exchanges Waste exchanges are essentially classified ads for waste. Companies can list a description, quantity, and availability of a waste on an exchange which is published via mail, computer bulletin boards, or the Internet. Other companies list the type of waste materials that they need on the same listing. Some waste exchanges list many different types of waste; others list only a particular waste such as wood.

Pallet Recycling Pallet recyclers accept used or unwanted pallets from businesses. The pallets are then reconditioned and sold for reuse. There are numerous pallet recyclers in Georgia.

Some manufacturers repair pallets for their own shipping needs. Simple inspection can identify reusable pallets. Flexibility in using different sizes of pallets often aids in reuse. Some companies have found that it is cost effective to add one or two employees who repair and inspect incoming pallets for reuse in shipping finished goods. Munekata of Dalton, GA has added two employees to their pallet recovery and reuse program, reducing waste disposal and costs.

Source Reduction Altering processes and material may help reduce waste generation, thus avoiding disposal or recycling. Gailey Manufacturing of Americus, GA reduced wood waste generation by switching from hardwood to plywood in frame construction of upholstered furniture. Approximately 40 percent of all hardwood purchased had to be scrapped due to cracks and other defects. By switching to plywood, the scrap rate was reduced to 2 percent and waste wood disposal decreased from 80 cubic yards to less than two cubic yards. Even though plywood costs more per board foot than hardwood board, overall production costs decreased since fewer board feet of lumber needed to be purchased. An additional benefit was increased product quality; plywood construction increased the strength and durability of the furniture.

Other source reduction methods can be used to reduce waste and cost. Planning cuts carefully can reduce offcuts, and buying lumber closer to finished product size can reduce chip generation from machining.