The softwood and hardwood forests of the United States provide wood products that are used in many applications including: lumber and other building materials; furniture; pallets and other forms of containers and crating; posts and poles; and a wide-range of consumer goods. This wide array of products generates waste wood when these products are disposed at the end of their useful lives. This waste wood is typically included in the categories of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and Construction & Demolition (C&D) wood, with the total amount generated in 2010 estimated at 70.62 million short tons; this amount is difficult to track and may be understated.
Since wood is a significant portion of both MSW and C&D waste streams, and since wood can be reused for a host of products (e.g., energy, fiber, or chemical-based), its recovery presents a significant opportunity. Also, since most MSW and C&D waste streams are located near population centers, the opportunity for creating useful consumer products is high (pool of natural resources near markets).
Consequently, there is growing interest in a more complete understanding of the amount and types of MSW and C&D wood waste generated and recovered in the U.S. This information is essential to identifying the barriers and opportunities related to expanding and improving wood reuse and recycling. Unfortunately, precise, reliable, and current data on MSW and C&D wood is difficult to obtain. The data is dispersed among various governmental agencies and universities as well as private companies. Much of the data is not transparent and comes with various assumptions relating to waste definitions, measurement units, and survey formats. This leads to differences in volume estimates between studies.
This report provides an overview on recent research relating to the wood component of MSW and C&D waste streams in the United States. Comparisons are made between different studies and implications arising from differences between these studies are addressed. A summary of MSW and C&D wood recovery in the U.S., and recommendations for the future, are provided.