Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recycled timber - a trip to the mother lode.

The other day I took a drive across the city to the Henderson Waste Recovery Park. (Affectionately known as the Henderson Tip.) The purpose was to gather up a ute load of timber from the awesome woodpile there.
One view of part of the pile. That's all plywood in the foreground.
In the past, "Rubbish Tips" were big holes in the ground into which all waste was dumped and buried. Those days are over now, increasingly replaced by Waste Recovery Centres, which aim to reduce the amount of material going into land fill by a variety of interventions. Much of the waste is sorted, and recycling takes place when there is a market for those materials or there is a use on site. Hence there is a huge pile of timber, in pile of its own in one part of the enormous Henderson Waste Recovery Park. This timber is currently used on site for mostly low value uses, where it is chipped up to create roadbase material across the enormous facility. It is hoped to one day have a higher value way of recycling this timber.  To a guy like me who is committed to recycling timber, who is forever pulling apart old furniture and shipping crates to extract the timber, a visit to this huge pile is like coming across the motherlode. With the Henderson Facility in close proximity to the Port of Fremantle and several  industrial areas, there is a large proportion of packaging material in this timber, from all over the world. Amongst it all is some amazing and wonderful timber, with the  the ISPM-15 marks telling what part of the planet the packaging has come from.  
I scored a nice heap of pine boards from a big pallet which originated from Mexico
Out of interest, the global standard ISPM-15, is currently being enforced in almost every major importing country in the world. After treatment, ISPM-15 requires that the heat treated pallets and timber packaging are marked in a visible location with a legible and permanent mark approved by the International Plant Protection Convention.
Compliance with ISPM-15 for wood packaging materials allows for two treatment options:
Heat Treatment (HT): Wood packaging material is heated in a schedule that achieves a minimum core temperature of 56ÂșC for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Methyl Bromide (MB) Fumigation: The wood packaging material is fumigated with methyl bromide.
ISPM-15 requirements apply to all species of coniferous (softwood) and non-coniferous (hardwood)
packaging materials.

"There's treasure in that there pile!"
I have several woodworking programs coming up specifically involving the use of recycled timber, so I went to the Henderson Tip with a bit of a "shopping list" in my head. I had some wins, a few bonuses, did not get all that I had hoped to find, but came away with a wonderful heap of timber. You have to be lucky. There is daily stream of trucks coming to to dump timber at the pile, and a zealous loader driver who periodically pushes the new deposits up into the huge pile which can be up to 10 metres tall. The menu is different on an almost daily basis, depending on what has come in. I came back with more plywood than I had expected, and less material suitable for kitchen chopping boards than I had hoped. However I was very happy!  
 So what did I come away with? A significant amount of plywood: 18mm, 16mm, 12.5mm, 9.5mm, and 4mm thick. Much of it Australian made, as wide rips off sheets 8 feet long. Much of this will be cut up into smaller pieces for the woodworking activities I do with kids. There was a huge pallet from Mexico, of 8 inch wide boards, which I pulled apart and brought home. This will be cleaned up and re-machined for the projects I have coming up with lots of kids in schools, making cheeseboards. I also obtained a heap of wide pine boards from Holland, Finland, New Zealand, and China. Some of these will be very useful for the programs I have coming up teaching woodworking hand skills to adults. They will saw, plane and shape these into a range of kitchen chopping boards.
However the material I mostly like for chopping boards are hardwoods. Sadly, other than a few nice boards from Indonesia, there was not much I could access on the day. Some I could see under tons of other timber, but was unable to remove them from the pile. Others I could see up on the top of the pile, but it was too unsafe to climb up there! All I could do was to gaze up and salivate.
Surprisingly, I did get some nice chopping aboard material from a pallet of unknown origin - but was clearly made from European Oak. Nice! Incredibly heavy, I was only just able to pull turn it over to be able to attempt to remove the boards.
That's my trusty Disston panel saw. Gives you an idea of the size. All that oak! 
Sadly, I was unable to remove the rusted heavy nails or lever up the boards, even using my big pinch bar, so I had to settle for cutting out a bunch of the boards between the gluts. It smelt like wine barrels as I cut it. A tragedy to leave so much of it behind, which I especially felt the next day after I had stuck one of the pieces through the thicknesser!
The trusty ute very much loaded up with treasure.
It's a lot of work to denail this stuff, much of which I did on site, and the remainder I did in my front yard at home on sawstools that evening. However, I am happy to be spreading the important message about improving our stewardship of timber which is being wasted every day. Along the way, I get to discover and use some amazing timber from all over the planet. I also get to introduce a lot of people to the joy of working with wood. Fabulous.  


  1. Very interesting post. We have the same kind of behaviour now in France with "ressourceries".
    The waste reception centre is coupled with a social integration program that sorts wastes, and resells what can still be used (and yes, there are old tools and wood).

  2. Greg, I think this is great. Valuable timber (or any valuable and usable materials) should not be wasted. Appropriate waste management and recycling is very important in my opinion. I checked some photos on your website and your woodworks are lovely.