At the last International Panel Products Symposium (IPPS) in 2019 shortly before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Marcel Vroege of consultant Indufor Asia Pacific Ltd gave an assessment of the future availability of feedstock for the global wood-based panel industry.

He warned that some key wood supply challenges would be faced in the coming years due to factors including increased competition for wood fibre from the engineered wood products industry such as LVL and cross-laminated timber (CLT), the growth of India, expansion of bio energy and threats to the forests from pests like beetles and natural disasters that are possibly linked to climate change.

The assessment by Mr Vroege then was that about 900 million m3 of roundwood equivalent was used by the global woodbased panels industry but he doubted whether there would be enough wood available if the industry doubled in size. About 2 billion m3 of fibre is used today for all forest-based products, including pulp.

“We need to do more with less,” he summarised. “We need to extend the lifecycle massively and make products that can last longer, as well as re-use products.”

With high demand for wood from all sectors, talk of shortages and rising prices, there is increasing focus on recycling wood.


Equipment suppliers for recycling technology are currently seeing high demand for their products and services.

PAL, part of the IMAL PAL Group, supplies projects worldwide for recycling wood and other materials.

Andrea dal Ben, director of PAL, told WBPI that the market for recycling technology had been interrupted by the pandemic but predicted the focus on recycling would gather pace again in H2 2021 and beyond.

“It is the business of the future,” said Mr dal Ben. “Not only for wood but for every kind of material. There is attention on this area from politicians and interest in making new things out of old things.”

He reported great interest in special board products, such as light strand board (LSB).

“These kind of products will have a big future and offer the customer something different from the standard product.”

Use of recycled wood in particleboard has been going on for many years but utilising recycled wood for making MDF is definitely also increasing.

“I think next year we will for sure do several projects for recycling wood for MDF production,” said Mr dal Ben.

PAL is also following some projects for completely new MDF factories, with clients increasingly planning to use recycled wood content at the outset of planning their new mills.

“Security of wood supply at the right cost is a main subject, everybody is trying to keep the cost down.

“We have very few quantities around the world for traditional wood sources and the prices are very high, so everybody is trying to compensate in the situation.”

The pandemic has understandably delayed some projects.

For PAL, it is currently finishing the machinery on several projects and will start shipping shortly before commissioning before the end of 2021.

“At this moment we have full orders all this year with a mixture of projects.”

PAL has two projects in Europe focused on recycling wood for MDF production, with three further projects in China – also for MDF production.

It also has several turnkey projects for recycling of plastic and discussions on a further project involving the treatment of wet waste for the production of biogas.

PAL is investing more than €4m on its own facilities to make sure it can service future demand. It has already completed a €3m expansion and re-equipping of its industrial buildings in Italy, including new laser cutting machinery.

A majority of its production can now be done internally, helping it to be more reactive to customer demand.

It is currently also in the planning stages of a €1.5m doubling of the size of its offices – a project scheduled for 2022.

“We have a plan to increase the number of employees because we are working more and more on big turnkey projects.

“We want to be prepared to give the same level of service with the volume of orders going up.”

PAL highlights a trend of increased demand for technology that can examine more deeply the waste content of recycled material for pollutants.

This includes using technologies like optical selectors, NIR (near-infrared) and X-ray selection.


Wood-based panels equipment supplier Dieffenbacher set up a Recycling Business Unit in 2019, but it has been building up its involvement in this area since 2015.

Jochen Kamm, head of the unit, said the division recorded sales of €40m in 2020, a good improvement on the previous year.

“We have started up six complete lines in these past years, integrating state-of-the-art sorting technology – optical sorting with NIR systems and X-ray scanning technology to separate impurities,” said Mr Kamm.

One of these projects was for particleboard maker Rheinspan in Germersheim, south-western Germany, which invested €10m in a state-of-the-art urban wood cleaning line, cleaning 28 tons of recycled wood per hour in a three-shift operation.

It is making use of some of the 10 million tons of recycled urban wood which are generated in Germany every year.

Rheinspan is part of the Saviola Group, which has for many years run its plants using 100% recycled wood.

It says there is no quality difference between particleboard made from virgin wood fibre and that using recycled ‘urban wood’.

The Rheinspan wood cleaning process comprises separation of oversized impurities; magnets for sorting metals before waste wood enters the Dieffenbacher ClassiScreen, where it is split into three fractions. A further ClassiScreen and a ClassiCleaner also feature, as does sensor-based X-ray scanning provided by Dieffenbacher partner, recycling specialist Tomra Sorting GmbH.

Mr Kamm emphasised that Dieffenbacher uses additional steps of installing cleaning lines before quality sorting so massive wood and wood-based panel material are separated.

“This is very interesting not only for particleboard lines but also MDF lines.

“We are able to take standard recycled wood and create two different qualities – one quality as a raw material for vat refining processes to increase recycled content in the MDF line.”

One ongoing project is for a new MDF line for EKH (Nile Wood) in Egypt. This involves recycling plantation citrus wood contaminated with plastic.

Dieffenbacher is also doing a modernisation at an existing particleboard and OSB plant in France, supplying sorting technology.

This was postponed due to the pandemic but the installation is starting again now.

Mr Kamm explained that the business unit’s work is currently evenly divided between recycling of wood and recycling of other materials for alternative fuels, municipal solid waste (MSW) and “Waste 2 Product.”

“A wood recycling project generally ranges from €5m-20m, while a Waste 2 product complete plant can go up to €70m.”

Interesting non-wood projects being worked on at the moment include a plastic pallet production line made from 100% recycled plastic, recycled carpet fibres and reinforced with glass fibre.

“This is a turnkey project which saw development of the pallets in tandem with a university and now the machinery is being shipped to site.”

Another project is for manufacturing products from 100% recycled carpet.

Mr Kamm outlined the two major reasons behind growing demand for recycled wood.

“Firstly, there is availability of fresh wood with the situation in Central Europe because of the bark beetle.

“We had to cut a lot of wood, more than expected or planned, so as soon as the beetle wood is gone we have to reduce the amount of wood taken out of the forest so it could lead to limitations on fresh wood. So, everybody is working on alternatives.”

“Second, everybody is talking about sustainability. We do a very good job on this topic.

“Each customer has sustainability goals and that includes using recycled wood.

“Everybody is learning what recycled wood means and some customers are very far ahead with the technology and want to go 100% recycled wood in particleboard.

“Others are increasing from 30 to 50% recycled content, others from 50% to 70%. These are the discussions right now.”

Mr Kamm projects growing demand from the MDF and OSB sectors for incorporating recycled wood.