A Word from the General Manager - July 2015

July 1, 2015

Wood Packaging Industry Issues & Initiatives

Trend Watch: Product Stewardship

Brian Isard

In the 1980’s governments at all levels started to get serious about waste diversion as available landfill sites became more and more difficult to develop and fund. The desired outcome was to reduce the flow of material into landfill sites and to recycle or find alternative uses for that material. These regulations on waste diversion are still in place but they haven’t been effective enough in curbing the flow of recyclable products into landfill. 

Governments across the country face a real challenge in establishing effective policy and regulatory programs that force manufacturers of products that typically end up in the waste stream to better operate waste diversion programs.

As a result, one area of environmental management that has seen a significant amount of growth over the past decade is product stewardship. Today there are over 165 different stewardship programs operating across Canada. 

Across Canada the handling of waste is being viewed much more critically these days and provincial governments have recently become much more engaged in enforcing standards of Product Stewardship on a wide variety of manufactured products.

Product stewardship is all about making the industries that design, produce, sell, or use a product take on the responsibility for minimizing its environmental impact throughout all stages of the products' life cycle, including end-of-life management. Over the past few years we have seen an upsurge in new programs for a variety of manufactured products as seen in the table below.

Source: Canadian Product Stewardship Council

What is really interesting to note is that wood packaging hasn’t been identified as one of those products that needs to be regulated in any of these new product stewardship programs across Canada. The wood packaging material (WPM) industry and the wood waste processing industry began early on to reuse, recycle, and deal effectively with our wood packaging products at the end –of –life by processing them into a variety of uses. 

My view is that processing of wood waste is both a critical part of any wood packaging business and the wood packaging industry in general.

Most of my experience has been with in-line, electric powered, hopper fed, single shaft rotary grinders for getting the job done but there are many in the industry who find the tub grinder the best piece of equipment for the job.

Processing wood waste is a tough application when you must accommodate softwood and hardwood, non-uniform material for processing as well as the removal of nails from the processed material. Wood waste processing has a high capital cost not only for the investment in actual grinding machinery but also in the handling and storage equipment involved. Our industry has worked hard to find commercially acceptable outlets for the wood waste.

Wood waste, especially in a pallet recycling operation, generates large volumes of repair boards, off cuts, and pallet sizes that cannot be sold. Many in our industry originally got into wood waste processing because waste wood has a very poor compaction ratio which compromises load weights when being transferred offsite.

In the early days a lot of the wood waste that was processed went for the energy from waste recovery sites. Energy from wood waste is still a big market. In Southern Ontario alone it is estimated that there are an estimated 250 truckloads a day of processed wood material moving to just one facility across the border in New York State.

Wood waste markets are segmented into composting material, bulk landscaping and top covers for erosion control, color enhanced garden mulch, animal bed-ding, biomass fuel, and as a raw material component for construction material. The critical feature of processing wood waste and cost recovery is understanding your markets, in terms of customer demand for a uniform and useable end product that meets client specification.

There are a number of members of our association who have demonstrated leadership in ensuring that wood packaging at the end-of-life is managed in an environmentally sustainable manner. Examples include:

Our industry has been a leader in responding to the demands of product stewardship and ensuring that the products our industry manufactures do not end up in the waste stream. 

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