The Social Value of Waste Wood

Social enterprises aren’t charities, they’re businesses that balance the need for profit with the need to do the right thing. They’re a force for good and a way of creating change. In the UK there are circa 70,000 social enterprises, ranging from small community kitchens and new start-ups through to large multi-million-pound companies.

Social enterprises change people’s lives in so many ways: creating jobs; preventing environmental waste; reinvesting profits into community activity and developing new services to help the most vulnerable.

For us, social value is central to our corporate social responsibility strategy. We work with many small to medium enterprises (SME’s) and engage in projects with our local community. We also work with several social enterprise businesses. One of our service partners is Community Wood Recycling.

Community Wood Recycling is a network of social enterprises collecting and reusing waste wood in the most environmentally beneficial way, whilst creating jobs and training opportunities for disadvantaged people.

Their service is based on the principles of the circular economy; by saving wood we are building a more sustainable society. They promote community reuse, one of the most powerful tools available to fight waste.

This labour-intensive activity provides a wide range of disadvantaged people – including those recovering from substance abuse or from mental health issues, people with learning difficulties and ex-offenders – with a way to build their confidence and self-esteem.  They can learn new skills, helping them to overcome barriers to finding employment.

Producers are asked to store approximately 12CuYrds of waste wood ready for collection.  3.5 tonne collection trucks are used as they consume less than half the fuel of a comparable skip lorry, greatly reducing CO2 emissions and general air pollution. Vehicles are hand-loaded to maximise the payload and to reduce the void space, which can be as much as 40% in a normal skip.

In 2019 Community Wood Recycling collected in excess of 23,000 tonnes of waste wood, creating 238 paid jobs and supporting training for 850 people.

By focusing on the waste hierarchy, they’ve been able to Reuse 23% of the material collected.  Material is used for community DIY projects or made into a whole range of products ranging from bird boxes to dining tables.

44% is sent for Recycling where it’s chipped and used to manufacture particleboard and animal bedding.

The remaining 33% is recovered and processed into firewood and kindling for local homes and businesses.

By utilising the services of a social enterprise we’re creating work and training opportunities for disadvantaged people and helping to change lives for the better.

Dave Gudgeon, Head of External Affairs said, “We recognise the importance of the principles of sustainability and will address these principles in a committed and co-ordinated manner. The overall objective is to balance the environmental, economic and social factors that our activities can affect, and to manage these factors in a controlled way to achieve good sustainability practice.”