Forestry, waste wood and business
Yesterday I ran a workshop on waste wood business opportunities for the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme’s North East team. Industrial symbiosis is the concept of ‘waste’ from companies becoming the raw material feeds for other industrial process as a rule rather than as an exception.
Despite thick fog and a difficult to reach, if plush, location – Slaley Hall on the edge of the North Penines – we had a great turnout and a real buzz. Business cards were being exchanged left, right and centre as we went through the brainstorming process. When I say brainstorming, we did it properly – no Powerpoint at all. We used the mind map above, printed onto huge A0 sheets, colour coded Post-Its, and a simple system of ID codes to track who was offering or wanted what. I’ve included the map above as the recycling PESTLE analysis I created for an event last summer has been very popular with readers and Googlers. Click on it for a bigger version.
The wider wood project has been very interesting. We were originally inspired to look at wood by some examples of industrial symbiosis in the Finnish forest industry, but to be honest, when we compared those examples and what’s going on in North East England carefully, there wasn’t much of a difference. What difference there is is shrinking fast as economics is closing the loops of waste from the virgin wood industry – bark, sawdust, offcuts etc – so we’ve shifted emphasis to post-user wood. This situation was confirmed visually during the workshop as there were lots of Post-Its on the right of the mindmap, and precious few on the left.
Big issues on the right hand side are persuading waste producers not to landfill waste, the tension between waste wood as fuel and waste wood as a raw material (and Govt subsidies for the former) and sometimes contradictory legislation. Having said that, the sector seems to be booming – and the local players certainly have more to go on after the workshop.