Recycling Waste Wood

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:03 pm on 21st November 2007.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 5:03 pm, 21st November 2007

The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S3M-752, in the name of Bill Kidd, on recycling waste wood. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project, a Drumchapel-based social enterprise finding new ways to recycle and reuse wood through collecting waste wood from offcuts to skirting boards and roofing; welcomes the support that this project has received from Glasgow School of Art students, who are incorporating the waste wood into their work, and Edrington's bottling plant in providing its old whisky barrels to be recycled into garden furniture amongst other things; believes that local initiatives such as these are of fundamental value in tackling the environmental problems facing local communities and Scotland as a whole, and hopes that as the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project grows more people will use and benefit from this service.

Photo of Bill Kidd Bill Kidd Scottish National Party 5:09 pm, 21st November 2007

It gives me great pleasure to open this debate on an issue of growing importance: the recycling of wood and wood products. Sad to say, there are at present only two wood recycling projects in Scotland—one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh. The Glasgow Wood Recycling Project is modelled on one in Brighton that now collects around 450 tonnes of waste timber a year. That is a fantastic achievement for a community-based project.

The Glasgow project has a three-year plan to become a self-sustaining wood reuse and recycling business through the collection of wood from businesses, schools and households. That will ensure a financially viable and sustainable local business in the Drumchapel area, where low incomes and poor business start-up rates and investment have combined to leave many adults and young people with low expectations.

That is where the social aspect of this type of recycling project comes in. The unskilled, the long-term unemployed, pensioners and young people are all benefiting from access to the facility. However, the project is not a school; it is a business and social enterprise. At present, its resources are too limited to take on board the number of people who would like to enjoy working with wood and pick up skills. Such enterprises rely on support from public bodies, and the all-too-familiar cry about the funding gap has gone up.

However, the returns for the wider community are great. They take the form of improved mental and physical health, the socialisation of young people, the acquisition of woodworking skills, the provision of education and an improved local environment. It might therefore be beneficial if the Scottish Government considered the possibility of establishing a one-stop shop to allow such social enterprises to receive advice and funding. I hope that the minister will be able to look into that.

We already know that the budget has pointed the way towards minimising the amount of waste materials, with the eventual aim of a zero-waste society. There can be no better way of achieving that aim than through the use of what are currently seen as waste materials to create new products, such as furniture, shelving, frames, household items and even works of art to enhance the local area from which the waste was recovered. Glasgow School of Art is a regular customer of the Glasgow Wood Recycling project, and its product design department has worked with the project to develop products from reclaimed wood that will extend the enterprise's income-generating potential.

Another excellent example of local co-operation is in the donation of old barrels from Edrington, the bottling company, whose Drumchapel plant gives the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project old, solid, wooden kegs to be transformed into furniture. Such generosity and vision are to be welcomed, and as a member for Glasgow, I extend my thanks to Edrington's management for that.

The planners who were involved in the rebuilding of Drumchapel town centre—New City Vision—have also expressed an interest in using street furniture and art installations that have been made from waste wood from the demolished buildings of the old scheme. Similarly, the new Shetland museum and archives at Hay's dock in Lerwick is an impressive example of the use of recycled materials, wood prominent among them. In that case, the wood was taken from 19th century German ships that have been excavated from the harbour.

Wood recycling is an idea whose time has come. Socially and environmentally, such recycling is beneficial and, as the idea, grows, it will easily be able to clear its feet financially. However, in the short term, projects such as the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project will need some help with funding, business advice and the possibility of public contracts. I hope that the minister will be able to look on those issues favourably.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour 5:14 pm, 21st November 2007

I warmly congratulate Bill Kidd on securing tonight's debate, which provides the chamber with an opportunity to focus on the success of a social enterprise and the benefits of recycling to each of us.

The Glasgow Wood Recycling Project is located in my Glasgow Anniesland constituency and, like Bill Kidd, I, along with the local councillor for the area, Paul Carey, have met Mr Peter Lavelle. I was impressed by his vision and by the way in which he set about establishing his business. It is important to acknowledge that the project has been greatly assisted by several agencies in the Drumchapel area, not least the Glasgow West Regeneration Agency, which, since meeting Mr Lavelle in 2006, has worked in partnership with him from initial discussions right through to the business development stage.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Drumchapel Community Business—or DCB—from which the project operates. DCB, which is situated directly across the road from my constituency office, has 55 units available for small businesses and social enterprises, and I am delighted to be able to tell members that, at the moment, occupancy stands at 100 per cent. DCB is an extremely dynamic and innovative operation that is able to offer new businesses such as the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project a 25 per cent reduction in rent, accessed through the community regeneration fund, to assist them during their critical first year.

It would not be an overstatement to say that DCB has been one of the organisations at the forefront of regeneration in the Drumchapel area, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in its success, including its manager Liz Atkinson and its committee members, who are elected by the local community.

As Bill Kidd said, the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project has been a great success. Modelled on the award-winning Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling Project, which has been around for about 10 years, the Glasgow project has set itself a very clear and ambitious target of becoming a self-sustaining wood reuse and recycling business within three years. It has also been quick to avail itself of modern technology, with a website and blog helping to raise awareness of its work and advertise its successful services.

I am also impressed by the business's social aims, which Bill Kidd highlighted. Although the benefits of volunteering for individuals and communities have been discussed many times in the chamber, I do not think that they can be stressed enough, and I am very pleased that this project offers people an opportunity to get involved, learn new skills, meet new people and make a real contribution to protecting our environment.

Discussing the success of the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project provides a helpful context in which to highlight some general recycling issues that affect the city. Although great strides have been made to increase the amount of waste that residents can recycle, less than half of Glasgow's households have a recycling bin for paper, cans and plastic. Glasgow City Council's target of reaching 66 per cent of all households by March 2008 means that it will have to double the number of tenements that are covered by the blue bin scheme.

However, even if that target is achieved, the city will still have some way to go to match recycling levels in other local authority areas. I know that Glasgow City Council is keen to make progress on the matter, on which I understand that there have been talks between the council and the Scottish Government. I urge the Government to look at the special circumstances that pertain in Scotland's most populous city. If Glasgow City Council needs extra investment to overcome the problems and improve the city's recycling capacity, the Government should consider providing that money. Perhaps the minister can address that in his summation.

We can learn much from community-driven initiatives such as the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project about how to establish similar schemes in other areas. As a Labour Co-operative MSP, I know that social enterprises can bring benefits and that often they can lead the way in providing solutions to problems that private enterprise or the public sector struggle with. The imaginative thinking of the people behind the Glasgow Wood Recycling Project has shown that recycling and reusing materials can be profitable and beneficial for our communities, and I commend all involved in such community enterprises.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative 5:18 pm, 21st November 2007

I congratulate Bill Kidd on securing this debate, which allows me to tell colleagues about two other excellent social enterprises that give meaningful employment to people who have learning disabilities or mental health problems and make a positive contribution to the environment by recycling wood that would otherwise go to waste. At this point, I am afraid that I must correct Mr Kidd on his statement that there are only two such enterprises in Scotland There is indeed one in Edinburgh, but there is another in Aberdeenshire.

In May, Wood RecyclAbility, which is based on a former farm near Pitmedden in Aberdeenshire, celebrated 10 years of providing work placements for people of all ages with learning difficulties. The scheme started off with two employees and four trainees; at the moment, it has 11 employed staff who provide places for 50 trainees, with an average of 26 people attending each day.

The wood used by the enterprise is made up mainly of pallets and packaging waste. The best-quality pieces are made into an increasingly wide range of garden furniture and wild bird and animal boxes, or are sold on to do-it-yourself enthusiasts. The rest is shredded and sent off to be manufactured into floorboards for the building industry. Last year, 2,286 tonnes of waste wood were processed, with just over half going to floorboard manufacture. None of the wood entering the premises went to landfill. This year, the figures are likely to increase to more than 3,000 tonnes processed, with nearly 2,000 tonnes being shredded.

When I first visited Wood RecyclAbility around seven years ago, it operated from fairly makeshift premises, but with great enthusiasm. The enthusiasm remains undiminished, but the premises are larger and purpose built, and the enterprise goes from strength to strength.

It is hard to describe the obvious satisfaction that most of the trainees gain from their employment. From those who spend their entire day removing nails from pieces of wood to those who hone their skills making high-quality garden furniture, the pride that they take in their work is clearly visible to visitors. Both trainees and trainers have every right to be proud of a business that makes such a worth-while contribution to the environment, as well as teaching skills and giving purposeful employment to a growing number of people with a variety of disabilities.

I want to touch briefly on an Edinburgh-based company that I encountered only last week at the social enterprise reception in the Parliament's garden lobby. The Wood Works is part of Forth Sector, which has a varied portfolio of seven social firms and whose stated intent is to build the health and well-being of people with mental health problems by developing businesses that create employment opportunities. It currently gives realistic work placements to 120 people annually. Fifty per cent of its income is generated through trading, and there are plans to increase that percentage.

The Wood Works began trading in January of this year and specialises in wood recycling, using waste wood collected from construction sites, households and wood tradespeople. After grading, sorting and cleaning, good-quality wood is sold at a reduced price to people such as builders, architects and gardeners; the company also sells bespoke products made from salvaged wood. Collection charges are lower than the standard waste disposal methods of skip and dump, and a valuable resource is therefore saved from landfill or incinerator.

I do not have time to discuss either Wood RecyclAbility or the Wood Works in depth, but both those social enterprises clearly benefit the environment, develop skills and give valuable support to their trainees. I encourage colleagues to spread the word about them, and I wish them and other similar social enterprises a growing, successful and sustainable future. I support Bill Kidd's motion.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 5:22 pm, 21st November 2007

I, too, congratulate Bill Kidd on bringing his motion to the chamber. I begin by confirming the success of Wood RecyclAbility in Pitmedden, near Aberdeen. As Nanette Milne knows, I had the honour of going up there for the second year in succession to present certificates of achievement to the people who work there. There is a tremendous atmosphere of creativity in the place. It is, just as Nanette painted it, an enormous success and one that deserves to be repeated at the same level as the Glasgow recycling venture right across Scotland. There is no reason why such initiatives should not be repeated in every town and city in the country.

It would be quite achievable, and a good vision for Scotland, to have no wood being wasted or going into landfill. By 2015 or 2020, it should be possible to get there. One of the specific reasons for not putting wood in landfill is, of course, that it is one of the components of landfill that, when they degrade, produce methane, which is rather more powerful as a degrader of our atmosphere than even carbon dioxide. In those tips where we can collect the methane good use can be made of it, but that should not be the point of putting wood into landfill.

I know of two initiatives in Edinburgh and one in Fife—there are probably others in other parts of Scotland—for furniture recycling, which is wood recycling of a high order and something that should also be encouraged.

There is another use for wood. Much of the wood that comes from construction is not suitable for making into other things, such as the lovely bird box that I got from Wood RecyclAbility. However, that wood can and should be pelleted. If we link that into the idea of having more distributed generation of electricity in combined heat and power systems, there could be a big win-win positive loop through the use of the wood.

A further vision for the new Government to think about is an objective of no wood going to landfill and all wood being recycled or reused for producing energy. There are one or two facilities—there is one in Edinburgh and there must be one in Glasgow—where people can buy complete doors and complete banisters. The two firms that have been mentioned are the only ones that I know of that will go to buildings when they are being knocked down and salvage anything that is of very high quality and deserves to be fitted into another building, including sash windows. We tend to forget that the uniformity of Victorian architecture is down to the fact that sash windows were mass produced and window apertures were often designed around the mass production of those extraordinarily long-lived and well-made artefacts.

I thank Bill Kidd for bringing what is potentially a very important vision to the chamber. I am sure that it is one to which the minister will give some attention.

Photo of Bill Wilson Bill Wilson Scottish National Party 5:27 pm, 21st November 2007

I congratulate Bill Kidd on raising an important issue. As it happens, I came across some disturbing facts relating to timber when I was preparing for the debate on wildlife crime, so I am pleased to have an opportunity to air them.

As we all know, recycling timber reduces the demand for fresh wood and it also reduces the amount of this carbon-rich material that is discarded. The more wood that is not burnt or left to decay, the more carbon is locked up, where it cannot contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide and so to climate change.

The harvesting and processing of trees also contribute to global warming. As an aside, I point out that establishing forests in peatlands, for example, can release far more carbon than the trees fix. As less processing is required for recycled wood, less carbon dioxide is produced. More important, much of the timber that is imported into the United Kingdom is illegal and comes from sources that are not sustainably managed.

The destruction of rainforests contributes massively to global warming, but global warming is only one of the many negatives that are associated with the importation of illegal timber, which also include organised crime. Although the subject is not specifically mentioned in Bill Kidd's motion, it is inseparable and I hope that he will forgive me if I expand on it a little.

According to WWF-UK, the UK is the world's third-largest importer of illegal timber—it spends approximately £712 million a year on the commodity. Annually, illegal timber that is imported into the UK accounts for the loss of forests of an area five and a half times that of Hong Kong, which is a reasonably sized area. Despite that, according to Greenpeace, the UK Government has refused to introduce laws to ban the import of illegal timber into the UK. Instead, it has approved various timber certification schemes that supposedly guarantee "legal and sustainable" timber. In reality, they are nothing more than licences to wreck ancient forests.

In answer to a question on the subject at Westminster, Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP for Brent North, stated:

"During 2007, the Government will continue to work, through bilateral and multi-lateral processes, to develop restrictions on the import of illegally harvested timber.

The Government are working to implement the EU Forestry Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation which was adopted in 2005. This allows the EU to enter into Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber producing countries, and will include a licensing system to identify legal products for export to the EU."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 16 January 2007; Vol 455, c 972W.]

Note the word "voluntary", which could be understood to mean "toothless".

What are the effects of the illegal timber trade? The trade in illegal tropical timber directly undermines the efforts of tropical producer countries to conserve their forests, which robs those developing countries of a valuable economic and ecological resource.

In a report that was published in 2005, Greenpeace said that European companies are complicit in the destruction of the African forest of the great apes, which is a spectacular lowland rainforest in central Africa. The forest is second in size only to the Amazon rainforest and is the most species-rich place in Africa. Africa has already lost two thirds of its ancient forest in the past 30 years and industrial logging threatens most of what remains. Greenpeace says that in as few as five to 10 years, Africa's apes—gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos—will disappear, along with the last undisturbed forest areas.

According to Friends of the Earth, the destructive impact of the logging industry on the Amazonian forests of Brazil is legendary. Logging made a significant contribution to the loss of 53 million hectares of forest in Brazil—an area the size of France—between 1972 and 1998.

Research that was commissioned by WWF-UK found that the illegal timber trade is the most organised of the five categories of activity involved in the illegal wildlife trade. The researchers stated:

"The scale of the legal timber trade dwarfs all other trade in wildlife resources and is nearly seven times greater in value than the trade in animals and other plants. If the scale of legal operations indicates the potential scale of an illegal trade, the implications here are alarming."

Given the scale, organisation and impact of illegal logging, it is surprising that efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade have largely failed to address that serious and damaging trade.

We must insist that the United Kingdom Government tackles the problem directly and effectively, but we can all help indirectly by recycling the wood resources that we have to the best of our ability. I support the motion.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 5:31 pm, 21st November 2007

Before I make general remarks, I will address issues that were raised during the debate. Bill Butler asked about Glasgow's recycling rates. Although recycling rates are rising, city rates tend to be lower than countryside rates, and where there is a high proportion of tenemental and multi-occupancy housing it is harder to provide recycling facilities. However, Bill Butler is right to aspire to keep raising recycling rates, which are vital for the future.

Recycling is one way of tackling waste. We should remember that waste, in all its expressions, represents the misuse of the planet's resources. In this debate we consider how we manage sensibly the resources of our planet and of our country. Mr Wilson was right to raise the issues that he raised, which relate to how we use the resources that we have to prevent depredation of resources elsewhere.

I congratulate Bill Kidd on his motion, which raises interesting issues. He asked for assurances on one-stop shops for advice on funding. Advice on recycling can be found at the Community Recycling Network for Scotland, for which the Government is providing funding of more than £500,000 in the current year. Equivalent organisations exist for social enterprises, but if it is suggested that there is a need to develop new organisations to provide information for social enterprises, I am sure that my colleagues will listen.

One does not have to be a Labour or Co-op sponsored member of the Scottish Parliament—as Mr Butler put it—to enthuse about social enterprise. We also heard such enthusiasm from the Conservative spokeswoman on the environment, who I am pretty certain is not sponsored by either body. I congratulate her on drawing attention to the Grampian scheme, which is important.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Is it in order for the minister to accuse me—inadvertently, I am sure—of being sponsored by the Co-op? Sponsorship would not be legal, of course. I am not sponsored by, but I have a constituency agreement with, the Co-op.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I suspect that it is in order, but I am sure that the minister will take the opportunity to say something on the matter.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I apologise to Mr Butler. My comment showed how old-fashioned I am. I thought that the old days of trade union barons sponsoring MSPs and MPs were still with us, but of course those days have been swept away by new Labour. I am sure that Mr Butler is grateful for that.

The Scottish Government recognises the valuable role that the community recycling sector plays in helping to deliver our objective of a greener Scotland. Of course, community recycling applies not just to wood, but to a range of materials. I think that we are all very pleased that a number of the projects that are funded by Increase—investment in community recycling and social enterprise, which is a specific fund for these purposes—have focused on a range of materials, including mattresses, carpets and bicycles. In some cases, these Scottish projects have learned from elsewhere; in others, we are teaching others.

The Scottish Government intends to carry on providing support for community recycling projects across Scotland. Currently, we are in discussion with the Community Recycling Network for Scotland on the type of support that should be made available. Social enterprise is clearly ideal for building some of those projects. As members have said, social enterprises have demonstrated that they can work in many sectors of the Scottish economy, often as the best solution in areas where there is a market failure or an emerging market. As Bill Kidd said, social enterprises provide employment opportunities. They also help disadvantaged people, assist with transportation, provide care services, support homeless people—and even help with kerbside recycling. The list is virtually endless.

On 14 November—that memorable day last week—when the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth delivered his remarkable and most successful budget, he announced that, for the years 2008 to 2011, the Scottish Government would make £63 million available to the third sector for a development programme and £30 million available for direct investment through the Scottish investment fund. The fund will support investment in the third sector by investing in assets, business development and the skills of those who work in the sector. I am sure that everybody is pleased about that.

These days, I spend quite a lot of my time in woodlands and forests, or watching wood products being made—or sometimes sold. This morning, I was in the Borders, at Ancrum, visiting the Borders Forest Trust, which is a remarkable organisation that takes wood from the woodland straight through to the most amazingly well-designed furniture in Scotland. I commend to the chamber the Albannach brand, under which the trust is looking at how Scottish wood can be used in Scottish building, furniture and a variety of other ways. I will return to Ancrum in the spring to see more of that work. I encourage other members to pay the trust a visit.

That work is at one end of the spectrum. At the other end, we find the challenge of taking wood that has been involved in a variety of purposes, but abandoned—the issue that Bill Kidd raised and which Robin Harper addressed so well. We are talking not about the wonderful wood that craftsmen are working with in Ancrum, but wood that would otherwise go to landfill. If waste is the misuse of the planet's resources, placing wood into landfill is a misuse of the planet's resources too. It is vital that we recycle and reuse our existing supplies of wood. We need to do that in the ways that we have heard about today, which ranged from reusing timber in construction to the Glasgow School of Art students' use of wood in the project that Bill Kidd highlighted.

We can also use wood in another way. Earlier this year, I was pleased to chair the initial meeting of the wood fuel task force, the aim of which is to increase the supply of wood for renewable energy production. A key resource in all of that is wood waste—wood that would otherwise go to landfill, or even be left on site. I am referring not only to wood that has been used in construction, but the brash that the forestry industry leaves behind. When I receive the task force's final report on 14 December, I know that it will have identified the issues on wood waste and recycled wood.

Bill Kidd has brought an important issue to the chamber. The Government recognises and celebrates the work that is being done in Drumchapel. Indeed, Drumchapel is becoming increasingly important in the forestry world, not only because of this project, but as a result of the remarkable and successful Drumchapel community woodland, which I had the privilege of seeing in June.

If our focus is on recycling wood, we will eventually turn our attention to the many new uses to which wood can be put. I hope that the chamber will remember that—as the Government will in its work across sectors. In commissioning new housing, undertaking procurement policies, and all its other actions, I hope that the Government will remember the importance of the issue and act upon it.

Meeting closed at 17:38.