Is Plywood Sustainable? | Renew Method

We use plywood in so many different industries and it is particularly regarded for its versatility as a building material, but is it sustainable?

These days, plywood is pretty much essential in just about every modern-age construction development, but many people have been wondering if it is a sustainable material to be so reliant on. Although plywood is natural, it can still potentially pose some harmful effects to the environment - if not utilized and disposed of responsibly.

Plywood is sustainable, as it is made from natural wooden material. It is biodegradable, and even recyclable, which makes it a very sustainable material to use. However, plywood is coated in toxins, and overusing it can lead to deforestation, which is why it must be used responsibly.

Plywood is a standard go-to within so many industries. We use this wooden building material when designing furniture, cabinets, tables, as well as the interior and exterior of buildings. This is a highly versatile and useful material that we have adopted and in many ways are dependent on due to how practical and accessible it is. However, the rise in global environmental values has resulted in a lot of people speculating whether plywood is sustainable to use. At the end of the day, plywood does rely on wood to be manufactured, which requires a certain level of deforestation. In addition, plywood does also go through a chemical treatment process when being made. These factors are making a lot of environmentalists question whether we should be utilizing a more sustainable resource to perform the same function as plywood.

After extensively researching plywood, I have been able to gather enough information to determine whether this wooden material is sustainable. My research has shown me that plywood is a sustainable material so long as it is manufactured and disposed of responsibly.

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How Sustainable is Plywood?

All in all, plywood is a very sustainable resource. This is a wooden material and it does not involve a manufacturing process that leaves much of an environmental footprint. Although it is not the most ideal material that could be used for building and development - compared to other materials out there, it is still a very sustainable option.

The environmental footprint that plywood leaves behind is minimal due to the fact that it is a natural material that is harvested from natural resources. For as long as humans have been building anything, wood has been very valuable and reliable, which is why it is still to this day a sustainable material.

This natural product is produced using a variety of different wood types. For the most part, the form of wood that we do use in the plywood manufacturing process is very sustainable and renewable, which is why it does not pose any major ecological threat to our environment.

With that being said, much like with any resource on our planet, we need to ensure that we handle and treat plywood with care. To ensure that our use of plywood continues to stay sustainable, we must not allow it to contribute to deforestation or toxic pollution.

Deforestation

Deforestation is a major environmental issue around the globe and plywood does contribute to it in many ways. Our forests need to stay abundant to lower our carbon footprint, as well as to sustain the health and natural beauty of our planet.

If we want to continue to use plywood as a building material, we must do so in a way that does not contribute to destructive deforestation. Sustainable forest management is going to be a key element to this - given that we must observe the population quality and quantity of our global tree populations - to keep our wood usage sustainable for the future.

The logging industry is responsible for a lot of ecological harm around the globe and the majority of this ends up going to unsustainable wood use. To keep plywood as a sustainable building material, it is important that it is sourced responsibly. The wood source should be confirmed as environmentally sound so that deforestation is done in a calculated way.

Ideally, the wooden materials used in the plywood manufacturing process should come from a tree farm that has been designated specifically for timber and lumber. Tree farms have been created for harvesting purposes and are not as vital for habitats and ecosystems as natural forests. Trees that are harvested in these situations are then replanted for future wood production - making this a very sustainable process.

Toxic Pollution

When plywood products go through their treatment and manufacturing process, they are coated with toxic adhesive chemicals. These toxic chemicals can contribute to formaldehyde emissions.

This can particularly be the case if formaldehyde is released into the environment due to plywood not being disposed of properly. It is easy to assume that plywood products are automatically eco-friendly because they are made with natural materials. However, the chemical process that plywood goes through means that it needs to be disposed of responsibly to prevent any kind of toxic pollution from taking place.

If plywood is disposed of near an ecosystem or vital habitat, this chemical can easily interfere with the local environment and cause serious damage. The potential for toxic pollution that plywood can contribute to is not something that industries or private citizens should ever overlook, as it does pose unsustainable drawbacks when not treated properly.

With that being said, the use of eco plywood is a great way to avoid the potential harm that it can have on the environment altogether. Eco plywood uses a formaldehyde-free adhesive, which does not have nearly as much of an ecological impact.

Is Plywood Biodegradable?

The wooden materials that plywood is made out of are completely biodegradable. Wood is a natural resource and it will decompose over time. Plywood is especially biodegradable when it is disposed of in ideal conditions. If thrown out in a moist and warm environment, plywood will start to decompose very quickly, but depending on the type of material that it is and how it was treated - it could cause potential harm.

As we just mentioned, most plywood that is used these days is coated with formaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical. Although the plywood will biodegrade, it will release this chemical into the environment. Formaldehyde has been known to seep into the environment and cause pollution - especially when in large quantities. This can cause adverse effects on plants, animals, and surrounding resources such as soil and water.

When plywood biodegrades in this kind of setting, it is not very sustainable, as it is causing ecological damage. The key to keeping plywood a sustainable and biodegradable material is to dispose of it responsibly. Industries and waste processing plants need to ensure that plywood is not making contact with the environment while it biodegrades.

In a closed environment, plywood will biodegrade sustainably. With that being said, many companies are adopting the use of eco plywood which does not contain nearly as many harmful additives, which secures the biodegradation of this wooden material without any serious environmental impact.

Is Plywood Recyclable?

Another very encouraging aspect of plywood’s sustainability is the fact that this material is recyclable. Once plywood has been used, it can still be recycled so long as it has not been seriously damaged.

There are recycling plants that deal specifically with wood products where you can take used plywood for processing. The recycling plants will then likely break down the plywood into a more raw material so that it can be repurposed for some other kind of use.

However, plywood can also be recycled in its current state - provided that it is in optimum condition. If the plywood has not been damaged and is still as good as it was when it was first manufactured, many recycling plants will actually keep the material in this form without breaking it down, as it can be re-used exactly as it is.

This is why we can sometimes see plywood products sold as made from recycled materials. Eco-friendly companies and even private homeowners often prefer to buy recycled plywood over standard options, as it has less of an environmental impact.

In addition, you can recycle plywood yourself without ever needing to process it. If you have got used plywood at home that is in decent condition, you do not need to throw it out, as it can still be used for so many different things. You can re-use it for future building projects or break it down yourself for other functions and woodworking projects.

If you do not have any immediate need for your used plywood, you can always try to sell it online. Alternatively, you can give it away to someone who needs it for free. At the end of the day, this makes plywood even more sustainable as it does not need to be processed - nor does it need to go through a biodegradation process that could expose the environment to toxins.

About THE AUTHOR

James Parker

James Parker

James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.

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