TreeStations: A Bioregional Solution to Urban Forestry Waste

This week we've been looking at the dizzying array of sustainability initiatives that the London-based Bioregional Development Group are involved in. Yesterday we posted on the Bioregional Charcoal Company, and on Monday we wrote about The Laundry - a localized paper recycling scheme that the founders claim cuts emissions involved in paper production by as much as 93%. Today we thought we'd look at the group's work creating viable markets for urban forestry products. Many urban and suburban areas have a surprising amount of trees in woodland, parks and street plantings. These usually need to be managed for reasons of safety, conservation or practicality, and this management creates a significant amount of low-value wood waste which often ends up in landfill. Since 1996, the Bioregional Development Group have been partnering with the London Borough of Croydon to run a TreeStation, a centralized processing point where wood waste from public and privately owned woodland can be converted into usable products, such as wood pellets for biomass heating.As with many of the group's projects, the idea is to divert waste resources from landfill, and to utilize them locally, thus cutting out a huge amount of energy that would be used bringing in comparable products from abroad (much of the woodchip currently used for heating in the UK is imported from Scandinavia). The TreeStation was originally conceived of as a way to supply Bioregional's flagship housing development BedZED with a reliable supply of local fuel for its experimental combined-heat-and-power biomass boiler, which later ran into well-documented problems (this was also discussed briefly in our interview with founders Pooran Desai and Sue Riddlestone). However, the project has had the knock on effect of encouraging other local institutions to consider biomass heating:

"The first market for woodchip was for 1000t/yr at BedZED for the combined heat and power plant (CHP). This coincided with growth in interest in woodchip as a heating fuel so we have increased the capacity at the Croydon TreeStation to 8000t/yr. Availability of fuel nearby has led to strong local interest in woodchip heating so despite the failure of the BedZED CHP so far future prospects for the TreeStation are good. Five local building developments have opted for biomass now that they are confident of a secure supply - a residential development, two care homes, a school and a district heating scheme. Interest is also growing among other London authorities. Discussions have started with Haringey, Hounslow and Sutton about setting up similar TreeStations."

The project is continuing to work on perfecting drying techniques for woodchip, and recently won a £15,000 (US$30,000) prize from the Ashden Awards that will go towards setting up further processing sites that include the latest innovations in processing the wood. ::The Bioregional Development Group::

Tags: London