Plant Operation: One Solution to the Wood Waste Dilemma
March 8, 2012 | 3:14 pm CST
MasterCraft Wood Products

Plant Operation: One Solution to the Wood Waste DilemmaFor as long as there have been sawmills and wood processing facilities, operators have struggled with the issue of what to do with all of the sawdust and wood residues created during production runs. Years ago, solutions included dumping sawdust into nearby streams and rivers or allowing the waste to accumulate before burning it onsite.

Fortunately, today’s wood processing industry is more mindful of environmental sustainability and is developing cleaner ways to dispose of its waste products. Wood processing mills throughout Europe, and increasingly in North America, are embracing briquetting as a viable alternative for wood waste disposition.

Briquetting is a cost-effective, efficient process that produces blocks of compressed sawdust and wood residues that make the waste cleaner and easier to manage at the facility level. It can even provide additional revenue streams as a carbon-neutral source of heating fuel.

Environmental, Business Benefits

Some well-known methods of wood waste disposal that are popular in today’s North American wood processing industry include re-purposing the residuals as animal bedding and pelletizing (compressing the waste into tiny pellets for use in pellet stoves). However, both these approaches require substantial investments of time and energy, and they present storage and logistics challenges that, in light of ROI, can further drag down feasibility.

Plant Operation: One Solution to the Wood Waste DilemmaBriquetting systems, however can be good for the environment and for business with an excellent return on investment, efficiency, and as a source of added revenues via the production of carbon-neutral heating fuel. They are easy to install and operate, and can require less than half the energy of pelletizing machines to dispose of wood waste.

As mentioned previously, briquetting is a popular disposition method in Europe, and has been for many years, mainly because there is a robust market on the continent for briquettes as a source of eco-friendly heating fuel. The method is now coming into its own in North America as more businesses become aware of it and the market for briquette-based fuel continues to grow.

More flexible than pellet fuel, briquettes can be used in any fire-burning device and typically sell to distributors for between $140 and $200 a ton. Additionally, from the processing floor to the warehouse, briquetting improves operations by eliminating dirty and potentially dangerous wood dust from the air where it could damage machinery or threaten the health of employees and visitors. And because briquettes are typically square in shape as opposed to round or cylindrical like pellets, they can be easily placed on palettes and shrink-wrapped to simplify transportation and warehousing — saving time, money and valuable floor space.

Source: Greg Tucholski is president of RUF US Inc. For further information visit or call (440) 779-2747.

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