Wood is a unique material that has the property of being able to store carbon on the one hand and release oxygen on the other hand. The longer the wood is used and reused, the longer it stores the carbon. In this way, it provides our future oxygen, both literally and metaphorically.
1 Wood’s lifecycle starts in the forest, where saplings absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Photosynthesis releases the oxygen into the atmosphere and stores the carbon in the wood.
2 Once the tree is fully grown, it is felled and sawn into logs. The larger logs go to the veneer mill or sawmill where they are processed to produce veneer, panels or planks. These are used in countless industries: construction, furniture manufacture, packaging, the transport sector, etc. This way, wood gives oxygen not just to the creativity of architects and designers but also to our economy.
3 The smaller branches and the remains from processing the wood in the sawmill are ground down and pressed to form wood-based panelling materials (chipboard, MDF and OSB), mainly for use in the construction industry and furniture sector.
4 When wood products reach the end of their lifecycle, the non-recyclable wood residues are separated from the remaining clean wood. The clean wood residues are ground down and pressed once again to form panelling material so that they start a second life. The cycle is complete. Multiple ‘lives’ are possible in many cases.
5 Waste wood that is no longer suitable for reuse or recycling can be used as a carbon-neutral fuel. The wood only releases the carbon it has stored as CO2 when it is burnt. In modern incinerators, wood that can no longer be recycled serves as a ‘green’ form of energy production, as an alternative to fossil fuels.
6 An increase in the use of wood encourages the ‘wood supply chain’ to plant new trees and manage the forests responsibly. Therefore wood gives oxygen to the forestry industry. For instance, more trees are being planted in Europe than are being felled.