About Wood Waste

Where do dead trees go once they leave your street?

In most cities across the United States, dead street and backyard trees are treated as trash. Even though they might be of prime timber quality, "urban" trees are not usually made into lumber or other high-value wood products. At best, dead trees removed from communities are turned into firewood, mulch, or boiler fuel. In some cases, these trees even end up in landfills, are burned, or are simply dumped on private land. We think Southeast Michigan can do better.

This issue is especially a pressing one in Southeast Michigan since the emerald ash borer has killed thousands of trees in our area. Without a local market for these trees, even those growing in the many woodlots surrounding our communities will be left to decay. Urbanwood.org can provide a valuable home for this quality resource.

According to a study recently done by Michigan State University, the dead trees from urban and suburban areas in Southeast Michigan could yield over seventy-three million board feet of timber annually. That's enough wood to build more than 5,600 homes.

Traditionally, sawmills haven't been very interested in urban trees. The wood often contains nails, has unusual growth forms, unpredictable species and sizes, and requires a great deal of complicated sorting. Most mills prefer to not to work with this type of uncertainty. However, a group of mills in our area have seen this challenge as an opportunity. These local wood processors see the value and character in logs that others have thrown away. Although the wood generally is a bit more difficult to collect and sort, the finished products are worth the effort. The tree that once shaded your home doesn't have to be landscape mulch; it now has the chance to make a lasting impression as flooring, paneling, or furniture.

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