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BioRegional Development Group, London, UK

Tree surgery produces fuel

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Sorting logs brought in by tree surgeons.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the waste wood from parks and gardens? Well you might be surprised to learn that much of it goes to landfill. Such disposal hardly seems the best use of a potential source of energy.

Which is exactly what BioRegional thought. Set up in 1994 to provide practical sustainability solutions, BioRegional knew that waste wood could be turned in to woodchip and used as fuel. However, the project needed partners and an easy-to-use mechanism for collection.

The answer to the first problem came thanks to City Suburban Tree Surgeons Ltd, and Croydon Council in South London where BioRegional decided to focus its efforts. The Council provided the site, City Suburban invested £250,000 and Bioregional sourced another £150,000. The fruit of their labours was a TreeStation – a centre where waste wood is received from many sources, turned into woodchip and delivered for use as a fuel. The Council paid City Suburban £10 per tonne to take waste wood, but saved four times as much on landfill costs. Most of the woodchip was sold to a combined-heat-and-power plant, where it dispaces high-carbon coal.

By late 2009, Croydon TreeStation managed by City Suburban was producing about 3,500 tonnes/year of woodchip. Moreover, the TreeStation scheme has established a market for waste wood in Croydon, an easy-to-access place where tree surgeons and gardeners alike can take their waste.

However, there are bigger plans. A 2005 survey estimated a potential over 300,000 dry tonnes/year of wood in the London area alone. BioRegional is working out how to get this use to produce higher grade woodchip for boilers. So, when you see tree-cutting on your street, you might just be watching the fuel that is heating your school or lighting your home.