Post-consumer wood or timber can be recycled if it is not contaminated. Industrial timber waste comprises of timber waste from the commercial and industrial sectors.
Timber - Untreated
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Timber is a valuable resource that is repairable, renewable and can be diverted from landfill. It takes significantly less energy to convert timber into pallets and packaging than it does to convert plastic and metal. In most cases, timber also requires less energy and resources to transport than plastic and metal.
Post-consumer wood or timber can be recycled if it is not contaminated. It should be kept separate from painted, coated and preservative treated wood or timber materials. Industrial timber waste comprises of timber waste from the commercial and industrial sectors including the transport sector, building trade suppliers, ship building, cabinet making, and construction and demolition companies.
Wood and timber with the following contaminants cannot be recycled:
- nails, metal connectors, plastic wrapping, dirt and sand
- paint, oil and other coatings, laminates, edge bandings, glues and resins
- plywood, medium density fibreboard (MDF)
- timber treated with Copper Chrome Arsenate (CCA) preservative (this is the most commonly used preservative, however other types may be acceptable)
- other wastes (e.g. garbage, building rubble) within the same load
There are a variety of preservatives used in Australia for treating timber which are impregnated into the timber. Humans and the environment can be put at risk if exposed to these chemicals at high enough levels and environmental problems can occur if treated timber is burned without appropriate emission control equipment.
Although treatment increases its durability, the options for recycling treated timber are limited. It is therefore expected that the quantity of treated timber going to landfill will grow steadily.
The Victorian Government's Sustainability in Action: Towards Zero Waste Strategy has identified treated wood disposal as a key issue. The strategy assigns priority to a range of products offering significant capacity for improved resource recovery and/or reduced environmental harm when disposed of, as well as the additional emphasis on shared responsibility across the product life cycle.
What Happens When It's Recycled?
Once the wood has served its initial purpose it can be sent to a recycling centre and processed into reusable woodchip.
- Recycled wood/timber (excluding treated timber) is processed into mulch, animal bedding and new particleboard.
- Some timber, including treated wood, can be reused in pallets as well as in building and landscaping.
- Good quality untreated timber can be reused in furniture making.
- Wood/timber that is not reused, recycled or processed into renewable fuel is disposed to landfill.