The human race is the only cause and is directly responsible for this devastation. This has further created other major problems like, the extinction of animals and to the unavailability of raw materials like Wood, water, fertile soil etc which were abundant in availability previously. These devastations are presently caused by deforestation, mining, diversion of rivers, wastage of water, infrastructure etc.
However, in this page, the environmental protection solution is being focused towards the wood industry worldwide. It is evident that there have been a lot of discussions, actions and other programs that are being initiated and practiced worldwide in this regard by various associations in the wood sector, governments and other NGOs.
Most importantly, this needs to be applied and practiced by individuals like carpenters and factories manufacturing wood products right from the smallest Unit to the biggest plant. Fortunately, wood is a renewable resource and we are blessed with that benefit.
The disposal of wood also is easy and that is an additional advantage in the effort to keep or maintain a healthy environment. When I say, environment, it is not only the atmosphere in and around cities but also the habitat like forests and mountains ranges.
Coming back to our own wood industries, we need to focus very deeply into the conservation and reduction of wastage of wood. Once again, this will be divided into two groups.
The protection of natural environment is only solved by reduction of deforestation. These days some countries are inviting people to invest in their country to start manufacturing wood products due to the large and abundant availability of forests. This can lead to problems in the next two decades.
In case their government is planning for the replacement of the cut down trees by tree sampling and other methods, then the problem will be reduced but will not be solved for sure. Thanks to some of the recent innovations in the wood panel industry today. We all know about the particle boards, block boards, plyboards and chipboards etc.
These days there are a few more entries into the industry which can contribute a lot in the reduction in the usage of solid wood and thereby conserve the environment.
The latest are densified wood, which is made by using wood fibers and is compressed with a mechanical hot press thereby increasing the density by three times which not only increases its mechanical strength, but also offers stiffness and thereby a good replacement to solid wood panels.
Of late, the technology has been improvised chemically since these processes facilitate the breaking down of lignin and hemicelluloses found in the wood strands which help in the additional bonding and in increasing the strength of the panel.
This procedure is often termed as thermosetting. Also in the pipeline in innovation is the mixture of plastic and wood which is the perfect replacement of the day. The huge plastic wastes generated all over the world are a big problem that is being attended by almost every country in the world today.
Singapore has begun manufacturing electricity by burning plastic in a technical way in order to save the atmosphere from the burning fumes by designing huge and tall chutes to ventilate.
Some constructions have begun using plastic compressed into blocks to be used in partition walls. It won’t be long when the combination of wood and plastic will find its way into houses and offices to be used as doors, windows frames and internal separating walls.
There has also been a vast improvisation in the usage of dowels, pegs, wedges and other smaller fitments used in the assembly of furniture products. Thanks to the conversion of plastic and other chemical wastes, a lot of fixtures have been manufactured with the help of these materials.
Environment protection is a state of mind, but a very important and a highly rewarding topic. It takes a moment of thinking to suggest possible sources that can be used to replace wood for our daily needs. If I can just think for a while, there are a lot of materials other than the above mentioned and that come into my mind which can be used as replacements to wood. For example, bamboo, straw, soy, cardboard, paper, cork and fruit shells (coconut, walnuts, hazelnuts, cocoa, etc.).
There is a promising future for any individual or an organisation which can develop these replacements for the usage in furniture in the future. It is never a waste of time to recycle and reuse.
Next and most important is the area to control and maintain the Environmental protection systems in small and huge wood products manufacturing plants.
Wood products manufacturing and other factories involved in the usage of wood as their raw material or for fuel purposes are another area that needs to be tackled to control the pollution of the atmosphere as well as the wellbeing of the work force as far as health is concerned.
Wood dust can be as minute as 0.001 micron and can be hugely harmful to humans. Diseases like cancer, lung problems, asthma and other chronic diseases can afflict humans very easily and rapidly.
Hence the protection of the environment within the factory and around its premises needs to be planned in a very systematic way. This enables for an efficient and a safe place for people to work effortlessly and efficiently.
Some of the most important tasks that need to be taken and followed by such organisations are:
-Efficient extraction of wood dust and fumes.
-Efficient material handling systems (To ease the movement of logs/wooden blocks, etc.)
-Proper safety gears for workers.
-Innovative and degradable methods in disposing the wood wastes.
-Conversion of wood wastes for other useful applications.
It must be accepted that a wood working industry is probably the most difficult plant to maintain, especially when keeping the atmosphere and surrounding of the pant around is concerned. In forward countries like Europe, US and others, high preference is given to environmental maintenance and operator safety.
But in Asian countries and other countries with lesser economy, the idea of environmental safety is very poor. In European countries, Dust extraction systems are considered to be a project in every plant. The system is normally installed by reputed consultants and manufacturers of proven systems and the budget is normally high.
The fact considering the high investment is normally the most important factor for factories in the third block countries to avoid investment in environmental safety and thereby adopt crude methods and lesser efficient systems.
This not only harms the atmosphere in the surroundings and also creates a great risk for operators and other man power in terms of health and other issues. As such, the following topics are elaborated hereunder for healthy and safe surroundings in a wood industry.
Efficient Extraction Of Wood Dust & Fumes
A standard or the right way to extract wood fumes and dust from a wood industry is to connect all the machines to a centralised dust extraction system. The individual capacities in terms of the type and dust output of the machines are calculated and these values are used to design the dust extraction system.
Every machine is connected to the system with a gate or a open / shut valve. This valve can be opened or closed whenever the machine is used.
This system of dust extraction enables the machine to be free from dust at all times during operation thereby increasing the efficiency, output, life of the knives and other sliding parts incredibly.
Efficient Material Handling Systems
Movement of raw materials like logs, barks, wood chips/powder wastes is often a challenging task that needs to be executed in a large plant.
In medium of large plants, movement of such materials is often executed systematically. Material handling equipment like overhead cranes, Forklifts, Conveyors and many such types of equipment are used which normally ease the production but also helps in keeping the environment clean around the vicinity of the work area.
Not only the above, but the storage of such wastes or Raw materials in dedicated sections or areas in the plant is very important. This help the work force work more efficiently and thereby increase production rates and quality of products.
Hence, it is very important to have a systemised plan to eliminate wood or any other kinds of wastes generated in the plant. However, In smaller plants, these materials are moved manually, or by some crude methods which ease the shifting which hampers the flow in production drastically.
The quality of the finished product is also affected to a large extent. Especially, plants producing furniture made of Solid wood, the wood dust settles on every surface hampering the surface finish of the end product. For example, when a solid wood panel undergoes a sanding operation, the surface is meant to be extremely clean before it undergoes the painting operation.
This panel is resent into special sanding machines with buffing/ polishing facility for a mirror like finish before it is dispatched to the client. Any amount of dust or settlements on the surface can spoil the entire procedure resulting is a huge loss and an irrecoverable amount of precious time.
Hence, a proper and systemised plan in the plant can help the profits increase to a very large extent.
Proper Safety Gears
Environment protection is not only the protection of the air or surroundings in any plant. The safety of the work force/people working on or near the wood machinery is often very risk in any plant.
Since wood machinery is equipped with very sharp tools and very high frequency rotating motors, a simple mistake by the operator or the worker can cause serious and painful injuries.
The provision of safety gears like Helmets, hand gloves, proper fir proof uniforms, proper leg wear are a must. Unfortunately in third block countries, many workers or labour within a plant do not adhere to such rules and often work in pathetic conditions.
Every year, there are a lot number of deaths that occur all over the world due to industrial accidents. Hence, it is very important for the organization to take care of all the safety features in the work floor to prevent accidents and loss of life.
When I say this, it means that the plant must have the following safety gadgets fixed or placed at strategic points inside the work floor:
b)Overhead water sprinklers
e)Pressure safety valves wherever steam boilers are used etc
f)First aid kits to be available at every floor/cabins/sections.
Innovative And Degradable Disposal Methods
All the abovementioned points were for the consideration of keeping the work force and the environment clean and safe within the factory. But it is very important to consider the fact that we need to keep the Earth safe too.
So, what happens to all the waste generated by such factories?
They are simply thrown into flowing rivers, dumped into open pits or strewn around wherever there is an open space or fields. This is the true fact and the apathy shown by mankind. One again, all this happens only in third block countries.
It must be appreciated and noted that the safety issues are well considered and taken care in an extremely appreciable way in the first world countries.
These days, there a lot of governments of many countries take part in Environmental protection summits and are well attended by most of the leading economies. Such summits often are held at France in Europe and the US.
The global warming issue is now being considered with greater importance and with a much intense and watchful concern.
As such, the disposal of wastes whether it is wood, plastics, paper or processed fossil products, there needs to be an efficient, viable and safe system that needs to be adapted.
These days there are innovative ways and some countries are benefitting greatly.
In Singapore, plastics are being burnt in special and dedicated plants which operate on a 24/7 basis. The plastic wastes are burnt and the heat used to produce steam is used to generate electricity. Nearly 20 to 30 percent of Singapore’s requirement in electricity is met by this method.
Not only this, the fumes generated by burning such wastes are let of into the atmosphere in special chimneys and chutes which still keep the air clean and do not contaminate the atmosphere.
Singapore is a perfect example to other countries as to inculcate the habit and idea to innovate and eliminate wastes products. Likewise, wood wastes need to be disposed by burning it in safe and enclosed chambers and the remains can be buried or strewn in open fields. This mixed with other wastes like rotten vegetables and poultry and after some treatment can be used as manure too.
Conversion Of Wood Wastes
Last but not the least, wood wastes can be very lucrative for innovators with constructive ideas. Sometime ago, the author had visited a small factory in India on a regular sales call.
It so happened that this factory was generating a lot of solid wood wastes after producing furniture. These neatly cut, planed and polished wood pieces were simply being sold off as firewood.
It so happened that the proprietor’s spouse happened to visit one day and considered to convert these wastes into household novelties and toys.
Today, she is one of the leading makers of such items and has employed many other women to work under her. There is a huge treasure that needs to be unearthed from converting wood wastes into possible capital.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of work going on the conversion and some of these are can also be compressed, mixed with other chemical solutions like glue or pastes to be used in toy industries, blocks to be used as separation walls in houses, as culverts alongside the pavements or for firing industrial boilers.
The wood working industry all over the world is one of the major contributors in conserving the forests, in innovating new ideas to replace solid wood furniture by engineered panels.
This is a major and a continuous step that will be taken in the future by the fraternity of wood products manufacturers and users in conserving, preserving and innovating fresh ideas and concepts The great American writer, Henry David Thoreau once said “What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?”.
It will therefore be our solemn pledge to be taken to maintain and harvest a healthy plant for ourselves and for the future generations to come.