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Useful And Fantastic: Waste No Wood

"About half the timber that is grown is wasted,'' declares Val Yule, putting in a passionate plea for a more sensible use of one of our most valuable natural assets.

About half the timber that is grown is wasted. There is no use even attempting to save forests when the demand keeps increasing to demolish them. and about half of what is demolished is wasted.

Most of our forest clear-felling in Australia goes to wood-chips to make paper. This article is about ways to stop wasting so much wood. At every point timber is wasted.

Selective logging rather than clear-felling forests means far more timber can be used for sawlogs, rather than so much good wood turned to woodchips. More expensive, but better for our wood supplies, and better for the surviving forests and their wildlife.

The construction industry wastes an enormous amount of timber. Only a particle is saved for re-use of what they throw out in building, wrecking and renovating. all the offcuts in new building and the used wood that is thrown into skips full of mixed rubbish. The common practice of bulldozing a site before building on it also wastes countless trees.

Unwanted wood is very often just burned as waste. It could at least have been burned for a useful purpose.

Even the practice of burning off to prevent bushfires could also include some salvaging of timber and understory that could at least be used as firewood.

At home we can be terrible wood-wasters. We often do not (or even cannot) repair or renovate wooden furniture—it just goes out with the hard rubbish. Wooden fences can be higher than they need be. Old fences are chucked out as rubbish when they are replaced. Being chemically treated, they are dangerous to use as home firewood, but there must be other uses.

We need to have an enterprising organized supply chain so that when garden trees are removed, what is usable as saw-logs or palings or stakes can be saved, and not just chipped or burnt as firewood. In Scotland we had an old yew-tree, and when it had to go, a sculptor used the wood for making beautiful furniture, artefacts and sculptures. Even many fruit trees have useful wood for such purposes. School word-working classes could explore local sources for wood!

Prunings from gardens are almost entirely wasted because even chipping is not yet feasible. The cost of power in chipping is also a consideration. A manual method is needed, using perhaps a small roller, or pedal-powered or large-wheel geared chipper. Yet there are developments reported about how prunings can be used for various purposes.

One of the curious practices in our culture is how timber is wasted for expensive coffins. As I am in my 80s, I feel free to talk about this. It links us with curious burial practices of other cultures which have felt that something has to be sacrificed at a funeral. Chiefs were buried or burned with treasures and even with animal or human sacrifices. Viking chiefs could be sent out to sea in their own flaming boat. We often like to put some memento in with a loved one when we say goodbye, but the waste and expense of burning or burying mahogany-veneer containers with them needs rethinking. Many people are now doing just that, with cardboard coffins or plain or ecological shrouds or organ donations that need no expensive funerals for the remainders, or even managing to have re-usable coffins, that the body abandons after the funeral ceremonies. See for example, the Natural Death Centre
www.naturaldeath.org.uk

A famous writer (Why can I not remember his name?) once wrote—using both sides of the paper:

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I may not see a tree at all.

© Valerie Yule

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