Timber Recycling

Working with industry to change waste management

Innovative thinking and close collaboration with industry has helped the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) establish a sustainable solution for Perth's industrial timber waste. Building an initial market for wood chip made from timber waste was central to developing a closed loop approach to timber waste recycling. Since founding the Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park (formerly known as the Hazelmere Recycling Centre), the EMRC has reduced reliance on landfill, decreased greenhouse gas emissions and saved industry hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. The City of Swan first identified timber waste as an industry issue through feedback from businesses in their region. The centre was Western Australia's first dedicated and economically viable timber waste processing facility and is solely funded and operated by local government.

Timber waste

A range of industries around Perth produce timber waste that is suitable for recycling, including cabinet and furniture makers, bulk haulage transporters, timber frame and pallet manufacturers, ship builders, residential and commercial builders and equipment manufacturers and suppliers. A large volume of timber packaging is also generated from equipment shipped in to support WA's mining sector.

In 2007, a study of more than 50 businesses in Perth's Eastern Region, supported by the City of Swan, found that timber disposal was costing industry more than $1.4 million annually, with over 35,000m3 of timber waste being sent to landfill each year. During the study, several key markets for timber waste products were identified, which included particleboard manufacturers and intensive animal production facilities. A regional timber waste recycling recovery and re-use program was deemed to be viable, because of the volume of timber waste available for recycling and the demand for recycled wood chip products.

Timber recycling

The EMRC began timber recycling at the Hazelmere Recycling Centre (now known as the Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park) in 2009 and nearly 40,000 tonnes of timber waste was diverted from landfill within the first three years of operation. 

The EMRC's innovative approach to planning and running the facility centred on securing markets for wood chip products, as well as ensuring a supply of timber waste. Rather than trying to sell a 'one size fits all' product to a range of markets, the EMRC worked closely with key markets to develop high quality, consistent and 'fit-for-purpose' products. This approach has been fundamental to the centre's success.

The volume of timber received by the centre has almost doubled each year since 2009. Markets  for wood chip products have also increased with the EMRC collaborating with industry to meet market specifications. The timber is processed into wood chips and wood fines, and is mainly sold to poultry producers for use as animal bedding and to cattle and sheep stockyards for use in animal pens. Wood fines are used as a base for potting mix by the nursery industry.

In 2012, the EMRC worked closely with key markets to develop high quality, consistent and 'fit-for-purpose' products so that recycled wood chip can compete with virgin product. In 2012,  the EMRC invested $2.5 million in a HAAS wood grinder to increase throughout and further improve product quality.

Working with customers

The EMRC worked closely with the WA Broiler Growers Association to develop a wood fine product for use as animal bedding in the poultry industry. Extensive research, with keen support from industry, has helped develop a superior product that is an affordable and consistent alternative to other products like virgin jarrah wood chip. The demand for wood fines for animal bedding is growing and projected to increase by at least eight per cent each year. The use of high carbon wood fines combined with the high nutrient content of poultry litter, has enabled development of the composting and farming markets. Successful relationships with industry have helped the EMRC develop other major markets for wood chip including the Muchea Stockyards and the nursery industry.

Working with waste generators and collection services

The Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park has secured its supply of timber waste by making it a cost-effective and sustainable disposal option for industry. Disposal costs are less than half that of landfill fees and the park's pricing and quality assurance structure helps keep contamination to a minimum.

Key achievements

  • Reduced disposal costs for industry – saved over $832,500 in disposal costs and reduced industry's landfill emission liability under the Carbon Tax Scheme.
  • Reduced pressure on landfills – diverted approximately 35,335 tonnes of industrial timber waste from landfill since the park opened. This has increased the life of the current landfill facility and reduced demand for additional landfill sites within metropolitan Perth.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – averted release of 148 Kt/CO2-e.
  • Reduced reliance on virgin timber – increased use of recycled wood chip products by the particleboard and poultry industries has decreased reliance on virgin timber. One tonne of processed industrial timber is equivalent to harvesting five trees for wood chip.

Changing industry practice

The EMRC built on existing relationships with waste collection services to trial and establish collection services for timber waste. The majority of the waste collection services in Perth now offer a separate timber waste collection, or have employed staff at transfer stations to separate timber waste. Source separation of timber waste was not common practice in WA and the high rate of adoption is a clear indicator of the success of the centre.

Looking ahead

The Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park provides WA's biggest waste generators - the construction and demolition sector and the commercial and industrial sector - with a practical, cost-effective and sustainable option for timber waste disposal.

The EMRC is exploring new markets for wood chip products, including bio-filtration, biofuels and spillage absorption. Built on a sound business model and underpinned by key partnerships with industry, the park's success is changing the business of waste management. The EMRC plans to expand the Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park and establish processes for other commercial and industrial wastes.

For more information on the EMRC recycling programs and the Hazelmere Resource Recovery Park, contact EMRC on (08) 9424 2261.