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May 2005  - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

MILL OPERATIONS

Recycling log strand

Five years into a BC program to recycle log bundling strand—and with tweaking being done to better measure its effectiveness—the recycling has become such a part of sawmill activities that it may end up being included as part of the certification process for mills.

By Christianne Wilhelmson

The Log Bundling Strand Recycling Initiative encourages BC’s forest industry to handle log bundling strand in an environmentally responsible way.

For reasons that are sometimes unclear, the term “monitoring” has acquired a negative connotation. For many, it quickly brings to mind the idea that someone is doing something wrong and is about to get caught. But just as monitoring procedures can ensure rules are being followed, they can also tell us how well we’re doing and provide the opportunity to make further improvements. 

As Environment Canada’s Log Bundling Strand Recycling Initiative enters its fifth year, new ways of measuring how much bundling strand is being kept out of our rivers and oceans are being developed and implemented. This is providing program partners with a meaningful way to evaluate how well things are working at the mill level, and provide confirmation that the program and the industry are on the right track.

Environment Canada has been working with sawmills to develop a method to estimate the amount of bundling strand mills are handling, based on the amount of timber coming in to the mill.

In 2001, Environment Canada launched the award-winning Log Bundling Strand Recycling Initiative, which was designed to encourage BC’s forest industry to handle log bundling strand in an environmentally responsible way. The driving force behind this program was an April 1, 2003 deadline, after which log bundling strand would no longer be allowed when dredging and ocean disposal permits were issued. After several months of consultation with industry stakeholders, Environment Canada created a program which would raise awareness about the issue, as well as how the proposed policy and regulatory changes would impact the business community. 

“By listening to the concerns of the business community while providing information about the environmental, social and economic benefits of recycling, we were able to develop a really successful program with industry’s help,” says Sean Standing, program co-ordinator of the Georgia Basin Action Plan, Environment Canada. The success of the program was evident in the first year, when the amount of wire collected from mills increased by 450 per cent. Between 2002 and 2003, that amount increased another 400 per cent to 10 million metres recycled. 

With the initiative well under way, Environment Canada’s next goal was to find the best way to track how much wire was being recaptured and recycled. Developing a consistent way of tracking the wire lets everyone see the positive impacts the program is having, including tracing where the 38 million feet (11.6 million metres) of bundling strand that previously went unaccounted for each year was now going. Tracking also helps the mills to monitor how effectively they are recapturing the bundling wire, and develop the best strand capture system for their particular business. 

But how can a mill know how effectively it is capturing bundling strand? The best way is to figure out not only how much wire is being recycled, but also how much is coming in. Half of that equation is already being done. “We measure by weight the amount of wire we collect and we give each mill a statement at the end of the year,” says Fred Schiller of Fred Schiller Boom. But that number doesn’t give the whole picture. “Without knowing how much wire is going in, we can’t know what percentage is being recovered,” says Schiller.  

However, figuring out exactly how much wire is coming into the mill is an almost impossible task, as wire comes in different diameters, and is used in different lengths to bundle logs. To tackle this challenge, Environment Canada spent the last year working with mills to gather information on their experience with bundling strand. From this information, Environment Canada created a method to estimate the amount of bundling strand mills were handling. The method uses an estimate of wire into the mill based on the amount of wood coming in. Though it’s not an exact science, Richard Ringma, General Manager for BC Coastal Group, Fibre Supply for Weyerhaeuser Canada—whose coastal operations are now owned by Brascan—feels it’s a good measure to determine how successful each mill is at recovering bundling strand.  “We can’t sit there and count every strand off,” says Ringma. “But we know how much wood we’ve brought into the mill and we know the weight of what’s gone out of the recycle bins so we’ve got some numbers to give us a good idea of how we’re doing.”

Using Environment Canada’s estimating method, mills can figure out the amount of wire coming into the mill based on the volume of wood being processed. If the amount of wire being recycled is significantly different than the wire coming in, mills can tell that wire handling practices need to be adjusted.

The motivation to keep track of wire entering the mill and what volume is being recycled can be found in a mill’s bottom line. If a significant amount of wire is ending up in the water, for example, dredging could become a lot more expensive.

“With wire, dredge material is harder to get off the scow,” explains Bernie Jebson from Fraser River Pile & Dredge. “When wire was a big part of the dredge, we would sometimes need to get a clam rigger to get it off, because a front loader couldn’t do it. If we had to take a rig out to offload the strand, that would cost the client a lot more money. But as long as the mills keep the wire out of the dredge, that’s no longer an issue.”

Gradually, mills are beginning to use this way of calculating the amount of bundling strand coming into their yards and the whole monitoring process is simply becoming another part of doing business. In fact, the recycling of log bundling strand has become such a basic part of the mills’ daily activities, that certification bodies are starting to consider how a mill handles bundling strand as part of their certification process. Some certification requirements are designed to show how mills are working towards continuous improvement. This is an opportunity that companies like Weyerhaeuser welcome. “Certification is nothing new to us, it’s just a way of life, so adding another element is not a big deal,” says Ringma. “In fact, showing how effectively we are handling strand is simply another way of highlighting that we’re doing good job.”

Though some mills had started to recycle their bundling wire before this initiative started, there is no doubt that its creation, with the help of the industry itself, has produced a culture shift that continues to grow. “The success of this initiative could not have happened without industry’s input and support,” says James Wilkinson, program scientist of the Disposal at Sea Program of Environment Canada. “As we have continued to work with them, we’ve been able to highlight that monitoring the wire intake and outflow will have an economic benefit to their business. Today, the industry realizes that the costs of recycling and the benefits to certification help them maintain and enhance their market share.”

The new monitoring tools being developed let mills have a better idea of what is happening within their own operations and can create a more co-ordinated effort in their company as a whole. This information, along with a continued focus within the industry on improvement, is enabling the mills to create a low-cost, effective capture and recycling system that has both economic and environmental benefits for the long-term.                                                                                

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