New data published by the Wood Recycling Association (WRA) shows that there was a significant increase in the amount of wood being used for biomass fuel rather than the more traditional panel board last year.
In 2012, a total of 909,000 tonnes of wood was recycled by panel board manufacturers compared to 952,000 tonnes in 2011.
But the use of wood for biomass/energy increased by 27 per cent to 759,000 tonnes in 2012, from just 594,000 tonnes in 2011.
This was because of the closure of the Sonae panel board mill in Knowsley, which forced recyclers to send material to biomass that would previously have been sent to this plant.
When exports are taken into account, this means that biomass has overtaken panel board recycling for the first time.
The total output of UK wood recyclers was 2,261,000 tonnes, which was a rise of 5 per cent on the previous year. Of this, WRA members recycled 1,967,000 tonnes.
Overall, the volume of wood chip that UK reprocessors provided to UK and export markets increased 1.7 per cent to 2,851,000 tonnes.
However, exports of waste wood fell back by 64,000 tonnes, which was a 10 per cent discount on the previous year. This was due to the eurozone recession and a mild winter in 2011/12.
In the high value markets, there was a trend from landscaping to animal bedding, but this market stream still represents one quarter of the total.
WRA chairman Andy Hill said: “Given the difficult economic circumstances, I think we can be pleased with these figures. The contribution of WRA members to the wood recycling industry has continued to grow strongly.
“A fall in exports was to be expected, given the unfavourable climatic and economic circumstances on the continent, but things improved significantly towards the end of the year.
“A dip in the UK panel board market was also inevitable. However, UK biomass markets have compensated for this, and high value markets have more or less held their own.
“I expect to see a strong resurgence in both UK and export markets this year. Wood recyclers continue to make a major contribution to both the economy and the environment.”