Wood recycling enterprise expands

A successful wood recycling social enterprise in Oxfordshire has nearly doubled the size of its storage, processing and sales premises, and it has used a loan from Co-operative & Community Finance to buy new equipment.

Oxford Wood Recycling aims to increase the amount of wood being reused and recycled rather than being sent to landfill sites while at the same time providing employment and work experience for disadvantaged people.

It operates a collection service in a 30 mile radius of its base in Didcot. The team collects waste wood, timber and pallets from construction sites, business premises, and universities/colleges carrying out 60 plus collections a month.

Richard Snow, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford Wood Recycling, said: “We are the only wood collection service in Oxfordshire that offers to reuse timber. We are an economic and environmental alternative to a skip.”

At the industrial unit in Didcot the wood is sorted and de-nailed. About a fifth of the timber is stored for re-use. The remainder is taken to a licensed recycler for shredding, with the end use mainly being energy generation.

Re-useable timber is then sold for DIY use or sawn and bagged for firewood. Prices for second hand timber are generally half of what a customer would pay for new. Customers are able to buy directly from the business at The Wood Shop which is located at the industrial unit, and special bulk buys of wood can be purchased online.

The business has grown steadily since it was set up in 2005 and now has 13 employees, who are mostly part time, and 4 volunteers. Although not technically a co-operative the social enterprise operates in a co-operative way with the four directors being answerable to the 17 members.

Richard Snow said: “Last year we had a major restructuring which resulted in us being more responsive to the needs of members and customers. We also knew that we needed more space and we were fortunate to be able to lease the premises next door. We’ve knocked through the wall and now have nearly twice the space we had before.”

In October Co-operative & Community Finance approved a third loan to Oxford Wood Recycling which has been used to purchase a delivery vehicle and a kindling wood machine.

Kindling and firewood is sold wholesale to more than shops, garden centres, coal merchants and petrol stations, as well as direct to customers at The Wood Shop.

Ian Taylor, from Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “By providing employment and work experience for people considered long term unemployed Oxford Wood Recycling has an important social impact as well as its environmental impact. It’s also a well-managed business so we are very happy to lend to them.”