This has been put down to the fact that there is an “abundance” of wood from sources such as household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs), coupled with a number of large biomass plants going down for maintenance.
Others added that a “mildish winter” meant less material was sent for biomass and “next to no” wood was exported to Scandinavia, meaning tonnages are at “ridiculous levels” compared to a normal year.
This has led to wood recyclers nearing capacity, at a time when they would normally have slightly less stock after a busy winter and in preparation for the summer, when volumes tend to pick up.
Consequently wood, particularly of lower grade, is in less demand than it has been in recent months and some are beginning to up gate fees for lower grade material as a result.
The extent of this varies, with some saying they are able to charge up to £60 per tonne, while most say this is closer to around £20-30 for lower grade material, but massive regional differences apply.
In the UK, around 4.5 million tonnes of waste wood is generated each year. Analysis from the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) shows that around 500,000 tonnes is used in the animal bedding sector, 1 million tonnes reused in the panelboard sector and 3 million sent to biomass plants.
This has led some in the sector to previously question whether the UK might eventually become a net importer of material if demand rises.
One recycler said a “sudden realisation” in the build up to Easter that volumes were not slowing down has led to a fairly sharp increase in gate fees.
He added that permit requirements still need to be met so there is a danger in taking in too much material, and could risk either having to store the material further away or not meeting obligations with contractual customers.
While lower grade markets are facing potentially higher gate fees, most agreed that markets for high grade remain strong.
One recycler in the south said “there will always be a market for higher grade material”, whether panelboard or biomass, and this hasn’t changed, but rebates (positive gate fees) have probably softened to closer to £10, down from nearly double that earlier in the year and even higher last year.
Another recycler based in the Midlands said that while demand for higher grade material remains, there is a huge market for people wanting to “get rid” of wood and said that gate fees will rise, despite fees being “suppressed” in the last 12 months by the larger wood recyclers.
“There is a real split in the market for panelboard, animal bedding and higher grade wood, compared with lower grade material,” he said.
“We’ve seen how important quality is for other material streams, and this is a growing issue here now, too”.
Another recycler in the West Midlands said the increase in tonnage levels really began when bonfire night was cancelled in November.
He added that while it was anticipated that the increased tonnage brought on by lockdown restrictions would ease, it has actually continued to increase this year as people work on gardens and outside spaces. This has particularly increased in recent months as lockdown restrictions ease for the outdoor hospitality sector.
“People have moved from kitchen renovations to the garden, which is lower quality,” another said.
“With so much of this around space is filling up, frankly we don’t need this material as much and are able to charge a fairly significant gate fee, compared to 12 months ago”.
Another recycler in the panelboard sector says the current issues highlight why it’s vital that customers need to begin segregating wood again.
“For too long, it has become acceptable to put all wood in one bin as the demand has always been there for biomass. If this ever softens, we’re faced with situations like this,” he said.
“I think it’s important that people know to segregate as much higher grade material as possible. This will save costs in the long run”.
In the next 6-12 months, the recycler said rebates could reduce for higher grade material if more customers take steps to improve the quality of material, as it would be more readily available than it is now.