When wood rots in
landfill or is burned, greenhouse gases are released and contribute
to climate change. Trees left standing act as carbon sinks that absorb
these gases. Approximately 25% of the fresh weight of timber is carbon
so if a forest grows at 10 cubic metres per hectare per year this would
be equivalent to 10 fresh tonnes, 5 dry tonnes and 2.5 tonnes of carbon.
Buying a recycled timber product (RCP) reduces deforestation and retains
the locked in carbon.
The UK is one of the world’s largest consumers of industrial timber
and imports wood and its products
from over 100 countries as less than 20% is home-grown. We then need
to use this resource wisely but a survey in the West Midlands suggests
that the wood waste content of industrial waste disposal alone is about
2.5% of the estimated 50 million tonnes of waste dumped every year,
which equates to 1.25 million tonnes of wood waste per annum. This does
not include household or forestry waste, which alone is estimated at
1.5 million tonnes per year. (Waste Watch 2002)
Much has been said of recycling in the media but it is up to us the
designers and manufacturers to bring them into the mainstream rather
than as ‘add on’ extras. Purchasing ‘recycled content products’ helps
to ‘close the loop’.
Over 46% of the world’s old growth forest has been destroyed but still
in 1999 16 million hectares was lost. (World Resources Inst.)
The main cause of this destruction is the illegal logging practices
of the source countries supported by the fact that as the law currently
stands, even if illegally sourced timber is identified, it is not necessarily
illegal to import it. Less than 1% of the total European imports of
tropical timber come from sources, which have been independently certified
by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It is therefore possible that
over 99% of tropical timber being imported into Europe may come from
The UK is the largest importer of illegal tropical timber in Europe.
It is estimated that in 1999 it imported 20% of the EU’s illegal tropical
timber, which comprised approximately 60% of the UK’s tropical timber
imports. As a result, the UK was responsible for illegally logging 130,000
hectares of tropical forest. (European League Table of Imports of Illegal
Tropical Timber. Briefing-Friends of the Earth 2002)
There seems to be a minefield of information from various bodies. From
people we know personally who have visited Indonesia and Malaysia there
is a large amount of uncertified timber being felled for the Asian market
that goes unrecorded. Whether this ends up in Europe we cannot say.
One has to appreciate wood as a wonderful resource but that trees are
our lungs and we are unwise to treat them as finite.
Institute (WRI) report released 02 April 2002
research group's latest report seems to confirm that all is not well
and stating that 40% of the world's forests may be wiped out in 20 years.
Jonathan Lash, the president of the WRI said "as we examined what
we thought were still vast, untouched stretches of intact forests in
the world, we came to the conclusion that they are fast becoming a myth".
In Indonesia, where illegal forest fires started by loggers have in
the past few years created environmental disasters, about 70% of timber
production is illegally logged. The WRI also found that Russia, which
has the largest forests in the world, the semi arctic or boreal forest
has only a quarter left undisturbed.