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Ace Waste Recycling | dump zone

The studio wood process research began with a tour of Ace Waste Recycling in Chester Virginia.  Ace is a state of the art construction and demolition material recovery facility (MRF.  They processes C+D material- including wood and paper- from all over Virginia.  Owner Ken Mogul gave us a detailed tour of the facilities.   As a cinematic experience, the place was sublime:  large vehicles were creating a racket a they pushed mountains of debris,  fork-lift trucks transported smaller loads, and twenty different streams of material were piling up around us while shafts of light shone brightly through the dusty air.  To many of us, the most notable part of the experience was the sense of being at the center of a vast unseen territory.  The changing price for each stream of material is driven by a range of influencing pressures coming from various parts of the world.  Therefore, the relative size of different streams -and the different interval between departures of these streams- could reflect such conditions as conflict,  disaster, technological innovations, or increased wealth in particular locations around the globe. At a given moment, one stream might be particularly valuable, but the hierarchy could be different the next month. This was a good introduction to a group of wood processing facilities that appear to be autonomous, but are actually linked to a flow of wood that starts in the forests and plantations of Virginia, but could re-surface in Europe, China, or return to Virginia from overseas.

Here are some unexpected connections between the forests of Virginia and the larger wood landscape:

wood flows. OCC, corrugated cardboard, gypsum board, UVA, architecture, sustainability, salvage, recycling, Lynchburg, American  fiber, industrial landscape, material research Rock-Tenn | inflow stream of OCC baled material | photo by Sydnor Scholer

The OCC above will be made into paperboard backing for gypsum wallboard.  However, much OCC from the United States is currently being shipped to China.  In the last ten years, Virginia facilities have experienced pressure due to the increasing imports of recycled American paper products by China.  This information from Rock Tenn is confirmed by Ken McEntee in “Paper’s Broadening Horizons” in Security Shredding and Storage News who quotes Jimmy Yang of Newport CH International (Orange, Calif.):  “Chinese mills are always going to want OCC from the United States because of our strong fiber” .  OCC is Old Corrugated Cardboard.  A Rock Tenn employee mentioned that American OCC is in demand because it contains better fiber with a greater percentage of virgin wood.  In 2009, China’s share of US paper exports stood at 67%, up from 20% in 2000. (

below:  backing paper for gypsum board made from OCC at Rock-Tenn | photo by Sydnor Scholer

Rock-Tenn, gypsum board, recycling, sustainable, forest products, material research, wood flows, Lynchburg Virginia, architecture, industrial landscape

Panorama Pay Dirt | Earlysville, Virginia | photo by Ryan Ives

Panorama Farm produces compost, composted mulch, and double-ground hardwood mulch.  The scale of their geometrically ordered site reflects the scale of the region that they serve.  Their mulch is produced from arborist cuttings that are taken from yards and estates of central Virginia.  After a few months, the mulch made from these cuttings essentially returns to the same yards and estates.  The Panorama landscape thus reflects the volume of gardening activity in the region.

Kelly Reed, riparian buffer, reforestation, Virginia landscape, white oak whips ready for harvest at Augusta Forestry Center | Crimora, Virginia | photo by Kelly Reed

The white oak whips in the photo above are grown from acorns harvested from a few neighborhood trees.  In late winter, these whips will be shipped out from Augusta Forestry Center, providing the stock to regenerate the forests of the state.  This landscape, then, is the intermediary between a few trees and the hardwood forests of Virginia.

wood flows, wood fuels, recycling, renewable energy, pellets, animal bedding, industrial landscape, Bumpass Virginia, international trade, material research, architecturewood chip piles | Woodfuels Virginia |  Bumpass, Virginia | photo by Delia Kulukundis

What are these large piles of wood chips doing in central Virginia?  Woodfuels Virginia opened a wood pellet facility last year (2010) in Bumpass, Virginia.  Currently their major customer is Lowes.  However,they have recently signed a contract to ship pellets to Europe.   In the last three years Europe has become a major destination for US produced virgin wood pellets.  With the EU’s  20 x 2020 renewable energy mandate, US export of wood pellets has risen from 85,000 tons in 2008 to almost 600,000 tons in 2010.  What we are seeing in this photograph is the extensive reach of Europe’s strategy to switch to renewable energy.  Will the establishment of feedstock industries for Europe spur an American interest in renewable biomass energy?

the extensive reach of Europe’s  renewable energy mandate | photo overlay by Kelly Reed
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