Household survey of tree debris recycling practices and consumer interest in products crafted from local wood sources
Wiseman, P. Eric
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Thousands of trees are lost in urban areas of Virginia each year to land development, storms, and pests. As a result, large volumes of tree debris, much of which is suitable for high-value wood products, are streaming out of Virginia’s urban forests annually. Finding cost-effective, sustainable strategies for recycling this waste, particularly into durable wood products that keep carbon stored indefinitely, could benefit the local economy and the local environment. To inform outreach and technical assistance efforts of the Virginia Urban Wood Group, we conducted a survey in the cities of Harrisonburg and Lynchburg, Virginia to determine household practices of tree debris recycling. A stratified random sample of owner-occupied, single-family dwelling units (1,000 households per city) were contacted by postal mail and asked to complete either a paper on online survey. We obtained survey responses from 311 households—187 in Harrisonburg and 113 in Lynchburg. Nearly all respondents strongly agreed (57%) or agreed (34%) with the statement, “Wood from street trees, park trees, and other neighborhood trees should be recycled into products rather than disposed of in a landfill.” The majority of respondents (68%) indicated that one or more trees had been removed during their time living on the property. However, 51% stated that they had not considered recycling wood from those trees. The two most important factors facilitating participation in tree recycling were timely removal of the wood (85% agreed) and free curbside pick-up of the wood (76% agreed). Implications of these and other survey findings are discussed.