Is Plywood a sustainable material?

In the age of climate change and global warming, the sustainability of a material is very important for a lot of consumers out there. Plywood is one of the most popular building materials out there. Being synthetically engineered wood, it is still made of wood and therefore, raises many questions about its sustainability. If you’re currently on the edge about plywood as a sustainable material, then this article might be of help. If you’ve been following our blog, you’re probably no stranger to what plywood is and what it does. But for those who haven’t, here’s a short summary

Plywood is made of sliced up wood layers, stacked on top of each other then treated by heat and glue into a solid wood panel. Due to its construction, plywood can withstand tremendous force and weight, while also being light (or heavy, depending on the specifications) enough to cater to whatever application you’d want to use it in. Thanks to this, plywood makes fantastic building materials. Its wide usage ranges from building furniture, cabinets to house decorations as flooring and roofing material. Hardier plywoods also have their uses in heavy construction. Being highly durable and resistant to weather, plywood is great as support and exterior structures in a build. This is all great, sure, we know that plywood has great capabilities and you can use it in a lot of things. But it still doesn’t answer the question of sustainability. Well I’ll stop beating around the bushes and just tell you. No, controlled use of plywood does not cause harm to the environment. If used sparingly, plywood can be a great benefit to our sustainability effort. Now, I’ll show you how using plywood shouldn’t weigh your sustainability conscience down.

Plywood is most commonly found with either softwood or hardwood (or sometimes both) in their core layers, depending on its use. But hardwood or softwood, they are still extracted from trees, and deforestation is damaging to the environment regardless of tree species. Which is why I stated that we need to use our wood resources sparingly. Trees are a renewable source of material, but only as long as we facilitate the renewal part by planting more trees and limiting their wastage. Plywood helps in this by greatly reducing the amount of wood wasted during their manufacture. When a log is sliced up for use in plywood, nearly none of the mass is gone to waste, even the bark or saw dust that are left post-production are saved up for use later in the production of other engineered boards like MDF or particle boards. Moreover, the hardwood or softwood used in plywood are often chosen for their growth rate. Most softwood species have a very fast mature cycle, ensuring quick replenishment for any patch of forest that was damaged by human harvesting. While hardwood trees take more time to grow, their growth rate is still more than enough to meet our needs and sustain the ecosystem at the same time.

Although my honest advice would be to not limit your plywood boards to just a one time use. While recycling is a great way to preserve the environment. Extending the use of your plywood reduces the need to buy new plywood boards, thereby lowering demand and wood harvesting altogether. If you do choose to dispose of your plywood products, recycling wise, plywood proves to be quite versatile. They can either be refurbished into new plywood panels or more commonly, grinded into sawdust to be used in producing particle boards. The biggest downside of plywood would be the glue used in its manufacture. Formaldehyde is a core component in the making of plywood. Although it is a great adhesive, Formaldehyde is inherently toxic and has a variety of harmful effects. Especially when exposed to sunlight, this is the biggest reason why you shouldn’t throw away your plywood and instead, let it be processed at a wood recycling center.

To reiterate, yes, you can both use plywood and be environmentally conscious at the same time. With climate change and global warming bearing down on us, preserving the balance of the ecosystem is becoming more and more crucial as we speak. Therefore, it is paramount that we put in the work in this symbiotic relationship and start using wood more responsibly.

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