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A renewable material is a material made of natural resources that can be replenished, generation after generation. Wood-based products are renewable because trees “grow back” when forests are sustainably managed, and more trees are grown and replanted than are harvested.
Every material has its own merits, and wood-fibers are no exception. They are reusable, recyclable and naturally degradable. They can be as strong as steel and as flexible as plastic. And with further development they will even be see-through like glass or plastic film.
Another important characteristic of wood-fibers is their ability to store carbon. Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), and the carbon remains in the tree’s fibers during harvesting and the wood product’s lifetime. For example, wooden building elements store carbon for decades. Paper and packaging products store carbon as well – the carbon stays in the fibers even through recycling.
For any product, the choice of material used can have a wide impact – for example, in how the raw material is extracted or processed, in how much resources and energy are required in manufacturing, and in how the material/product is transported. Finding out this type of impact data requires careful research, but we can also think about the qualities of the materials themselves: are they renewable, are they recyclable, how easily degradable are they?
The below chart shows how different materials compare in terms of renewability, recyclability and degradability.