More than any other material, wood fits perfectly into the implementation of the principles of the circular economy. The notions of “recycling” and “upcycling” take on their full meaning here, as the forest/wood sector presents many possible related flows to improve the longevity of the material through different successive forms of use.
For example, timber in the form of structures and frames can, even after 50 years of use, be re-processed into industrial wood (panels or paper pulp) or used as energy wood.
The potential for exploitation is therefore particularly large. The wood sector is also the only one to integrate the biological and technological cycles of its basic material. Wood is a natural material that returns to nature at the end of its useful life and can be processed several times during its use.
Resilience first and foremost
In the fight against global warming, wood can play a major role on several levels:
- forests are carbon sinks that store the carbon removed from the CO2 in the atmosphere in the wood;
- many uses of wood (construction, carpentry, etc.) allow CO2 to be fixed in the long term;
- compared to other materials, the production of wood materials requires much less energy (“grey energy”);
- its use as an energy source reduces the use of fossil fuels.
Despite the current difficult context (pandemic, climate change, decline of certain species, etc.), the players in the sector are not letting themselves be defeated and focus on resilience.
On the one hand, the Nature and Forestry Administration, under the authority of the Ministry of the Environment (for public plots), and private owners have the task of ensuring that their forests can adapt to the current climate changes. Large-scale aid programmes and profound changes in forest management are being implemented in the depths of our forests, favouring mixed, multi-aged and therefore more resilient forests.
On the other hand, companies within the sector are also engaged in reflection processes. The innovation of new products, such as the use of beech wood in construction, as well as the optimisation of processes and the reduction of resources used are the main focus.
Through various programmes co-financed by the Ministry of the Economy, companies are encouraged and supported by Luxinnovation in order to become more resilient in the future and to better cope with future crises that may arise. This is notably the case of the Fit 4 Resilience programme.
The collateral damage caused by the current health crisis has highlighted the increasing importance of local and regional value and supply chains. The Luxembourg Wood Cluster has been working extensively in this field, long before the term COVID-19 entered the common vocabulary.
This work will be further developed, as the wood sector is a perfect example of the use of a regional resource and the creation of regional value. The cluster is an important and indispensable platform for working together and exchanging in order to emerge, all together, from this crisis as well as possible.
This article is an extract from an article published by Philippe Genot, manager of the Luxembourg Wood Cluster, in the Forum magazine published at the beginning of April 2021.