Urban Forest Waste Generation and Utilization by Municipal and Private Arboricultural Operations in Virginia


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Virginia Tech


Urban forest waste utilization has been identified as an essential component of the sustainable urban forest management system. To compile baseline data on generation and utilization of urban forest waste (UFW) in Virginia, 91 urbanized municipalities and 828 International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists operating privately in Virginia were invited to participate in a web-based survey. Results indicate that nearly three quarters (74%) of all respondents reported that their local operation generates UFW. For private arborists this included logs, brush, and chips generated by arboricultural practices, and for municipalities this included similar material generated by an in-house tree crew and similar material collected curbside from residents. Two-thirds (67%) of respondents could not estimate the amount of UFW generated by their local operations, but nearly half (47%) could report on its fate. The mean total amount generated was 315 tons/year/employee, or 945 tons/year for a typical tree crew. On average, both municipalities and private operations reported disposing less than 25% of their UFW at a solid waste facility. The majority of logs were utilized to produce firewood or lumber, while the majority of chips and brush were utilized to produce mulch or compost. Municipal operations utilized significantly more chips in-house compared to private arboricultural operations (p = 0.041). Regardless of operation type or UFW type, UFW is rarely left on-site, which indicates that UFW is being handled and transported in the majority of situations. If UFW is being mobilized, then perhaps there might be additional opportunities to divert materials into utilization streams rather than disposal streams. When characterizing the respondents' perceptions of urban forest waste utilization, two-thirds of respondents (65%) either agreed or strongly agreed that UFW utilization is a major issue for the urban forestry industry currently. An even higher percentage (76%) agreed or strongly agreed that UFW utilization will be a major issue for the urban forestry industry in the future. Results also indicate that the primary incentives to utilization were the avoidance of disposal fees and shipping costs. Municipal employees cited a lack of equipment as the primary barrier to greater waste utilization and frequently identified educational seminars or conferences as a technical assistance need. In contrast, private-sector arborists cited a lack of local processors as their primary barrier and frequently identified local facilities for receiving, sorting, and stockpiling UFW as a technical assistance need. These varying perceptions should be taken into account when developing future educational or technical programs aimed at increasing utilization in Virginia.



urban forestry, arboriculture, wood products