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Growing amounts of wood waste

by Brian R. Hook E-mail the author

With new buildings going up and old buildings coming down at a record pace across the country – generating tons of construction-and-demolition debris – it is easy to make the assumption that wood waste is a growing segment within the waste industry.

New construction hit a record of $1.185 trillion in February, according to the United States Commerce Department. Construction spending grew 0.8 percent over January and by 7.4 percent over February last year. Non-residential construction increased 9.6 percent. Residential construction jumped 7.1 percent. Public construction gained 6 percent.

Where is all the wood waste from these construction projects going? Finding numbers to back up the assumption that wood waste is growing is not easy. No government agency or trade group regularly tracks wood waste. Those that do track C&D debris, consisting of steel to concrete debris, do not break out wood waste separately.

Houston-based LETCO Group L.P., which operates facilities throughout Texas, processes a small amount of wood waste from construction. Mark Rose, area president, said wood waste is processed into fuel and is usually burned by paper mills.

“I cannot say that volume is up,” Rose said. Construction in the Dallas and Houston markets has been strong for a long time, he said. “Wood waste is very regional due to a very low sales price and high transportation costs,” Rose said.

LETCO, which recycles mostly tree trimmings, grass clippings and leaves, is a subsidiary of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Republic Services Inc. The solid-waste company, which serves markets in 21 states, does not break out the results for its subsidiaries like LETCO. Republic Services also does not reveal C&D amounts.

It is a similar story at Houston-based Waste Management Services (WM), the country’s largest solid-waste company. “We have C&D landfills all across the country and have waste-to-energy plants that sometimes turn wood waste into energy by burning – but that’s all in the normal course of business,” said Lynn Brown, vice president of corporate communications. She said WM does not track wood waste. “We would have to call each of our more than 300 landfills individually. That’s simply impractical,” Brown said.  Read more...


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