Sustainability and the Wood Preservation Industry
Wood products are subject to degradation when left untreated in weather-exposed or wet environments and become susceptible to microbial or insect attack. The treated wood industry started in the 1800’s with the production of railway ties. Today, the industry is still very present in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors.
Pressure treated wood is used primarily outdoors and has dozens of industrial applications, from docks and marinas to railway ties, utility poles, piling, bridges and highway guardrail. It is also a product widely used by landscape architects in numerous landscaping projects. Around the home, treated wood is used mainly for decks, fences, gazebos and playground equipment. It can also be used for certain indoor applications where building codes require treated wood, for example, fire retardant treated plywood.
The use of treated wood products indirectly reduces the consumption of forests by extending the life of wood products. Treated wood is a sustainable product and there are a lot of environmental and economic benefits to using it. The process of pressure treating wood simply protects it from natural destructive elements while extending its service life. By extending the life cycle of the material, we remove pressure on natural resource ecosystems by saving trees and limiting the amount of waste sent to landfills. The use of treated wood in Canada saves a forest approximately the size of Prince Edward Island every year. Treated wood is also reusable, for example as utility poles can be cut and reused in the transportation systems for components in a guardrail system, for sign posts, fence posts or in bridge decks.
All preservatives used in the processing of treated wood, are subject to strict ongoing registration and reviews by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and other agencies responsible for evaluating environmental and human health risks.
Members of Wood Preservation Canada make a commitment to protecting the environment as a condition of their membership when they receive certification by the Wood Preservation Certification Authority (CWPCA).
The CWPCA ensures that certified plants respect and fulfill the demands and requirements outlined in the Environment Canada Technical Recommendation Document for the Design and Operation of Wood Preservation Facilities. It ensures that all Canadian wood preservation plants maintain design and operating practices to minimize environmental impact and to protect workers from exposures to preservatives. The CWPCA certification program and Wood Preservation Canada continue to work within industry to maintain and improve the program.
Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)
Until recently, no method existed to mathematically calculate the sustainability of one material over another. As the technology evolves, Life-Cycle Assessment is gaining more acceptance. The process involves evaluating all the environmental effects of decisions and processes over the life of the product, from resource extraction to disposal.
In recent years, the US Treated Wood Council has undertaken life cycle assessment of treated wood compared to other materials used in the same project category.