Have you ever driven down the street and noticed a massive clearing of land? Depending on where you live, construction can be a regular part of your environment. Cities are expanding and people need places to live, shop and eat. It's unfortunate that many trees' lives are cut short as a result, but they're used for something else, right? Well, not always.
Little do most folks know that a lot of those trees end up in a landfill. In fact, in 2010, it was estimated that in the United States almost 29 million tons of recoverable wood waste was left to rot in the landfill. That wood waste accounts for about 11% of all garbage. With construction resuming after the economic recession, it's pretty safe to assume that these numbers will increase.
Why would you waste perfectly good wood?
It doesn't seem logical to waste tons of usable wood, especially when we're cutting down trees in other forests and transporting them long distance for industrial supply. The fact of the matter is, it's much easier and cheaper for tree removal or construction businesses to cut trees into logs, turn them into mulch and haul it to the dump. Moving intact trees to the lumber mill requires extra equipment, such as a crane or front loader, and a lot of manpower. It's just the more cost-effective solution for most businesses to toss them. And let's face it – waste is a part of every industry.
On top of that, urban trees aren't always the most appealing to lumber companies. They can contain metal, ceramics and other foreign materials embedded in them. But that doesn't mean they can't be used for something other than mulch or garbage.
Treecycle America – a Charlotte, NC, organization making a difference
Treecycle America founders Damon Barron and Steve Grace aim to change the way we treat recoverable trees. Their organization focuses on recovering these trees and upcycling them so they can live out their full potential. Focusing on sustainability, Treecycle America is a loose cooperative of independent businesses, such as arborists, sawmills, tree removal services, foundation companies and woodworkers, working together to reduce local wood waste.
North Carolina businesses that would typically purchase their wood from places like Pennsylvania or Canada can now purchase local, recycled wood from this organization at about the same cost. Trees that have grown for 100 years are now being upcycled and transformed into lumber and high-end wood products such as tables, cabinets and even bars. There's no need to transport wood hundreds of miles when Treecycle America allows manufacturers to purchase wood from their backyard.
Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. With that growth comes a bunch of construction and with that construction comes the loss of many trees. In the past 30 years, the Charlotte area has lost 50% of its tree canopy to make way for development. It's estimated that 9 million pounds of these trees are tossed away each year as a result of this urban expansion. Maybe with Treecycle America working with many businesses that have a hand in tree removal, this growing Southern city, and the rest of the U.S., will see products made from local trees rather than overflowing dumping grounds.