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NC Urban Wood Utilization

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Photo of road going through forest

In communities across the nation, trees from streets, homes, parks, and other public and private lands are removed due to mortality from a variety of causes: disease, insects, storm damage, street improvements, and development clearing. These trees rarely see a valuable end, even though many could be used for lumber and other products. Instead, they pose a waste and a disposal problem, often ending up as firewood, fuel chips, or mulch. Or worse, this resource is spread over landfills as daily cover, or simply left in a pile and abandoned. Regardless of the market value that this wood might otherwise have, communities and homeowners pay large fees to dispose of materials that could have been converted into usable goods. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the wood "waste" generated annually in this country's urban areas, if processed, could produce up to 3.8 billion board feet of lumber.

Awareness of wood waste issues has become even more pressing as forest health crises such as the emerald ash borer, sudden oak death, and the Asian longhorned beetle threaten both rural and urban forests. With millions of trees already killed by these pests, the need for higher value recycling options continues to grow. Yet, even when major forest threats aren't magnifying the problem, municipal forestry departments and independent tree service companies struggle with the high costs of wood processing, transportation, and disposal.