• Wood accounts for 10% of yearly waste material in the US.
  • The Baltimore Wood Project salvages wood from buildings to repurpose and resell locally to create a circular economy.
  • The initiative also has social benefits, by creating job opportunities in a post-industrial city that has an 8.5% unemployment rate.

An initiative in the US city of Baltimore wants to salvage and reuse as much wood as possible, while also creating jobs.

The Baltimore Wood Project works with partners such as the US Forest Service to rethink and reclaim wood in the city in order to reduce landfill waste, rejuvenate disused land and engage local communities.

The pilot project salvages wood from abandoned buildings and urban trees before repurposing it and reselling it locally, thereby creating a closed loop system or circular economy which has a host of environmental, economic and social benefits.

Reducing the city’s waste

Wood accounts for more than 10% of the annual waste material in the US and, in some years, more tree and woody residue has been generated from urban areas than was harvested from national forests, according to the US Forest Service. This waste is costly for businesses that have to pay for its collection and disposal.

Post-industrial Baltimore is a particularly relevant base for the scheme, as it is estimated that there are 16,000 empty properties, with some 4,000 of them marked for demolition. Some estimates even put the number of vacant lots in the city at well over 40,000.

By reclaiming both freshly-cut wood and that from abandoned properties, the Baltimore Wood Project can reduce waste; provide green materials for construction, furniture making and other sectors; and help restore and reclaim neighbourhoods.

Deconstruction instead of demolition

In addition to its obvious environmental benefits, the project also has valuable economic and social advantages. With a population of nearly 600,000, Baltimore has an unemployment rate of 8.5%, compared to a nationwide rate of 6.2%.

The Baltimore Wood Project helps tackle the city’s joblessness problem by focusing on deconstruction rather than demolition, arguing that the former creates six to eight more jobs than the latter.

This enables those with barriers to employment to gain a valuable skill set and eventually a career, and also helps revitalize the neighbourhoods in which they live.

The benefits of a circular economy

Wood reclaimed and recycled by the project can be used for sustainable building, furniture and energy, among other uses.

Indeed, the project is intended to help the city achieve its aim of a sustainable future and serve as a model for creating a circular, self-reinforcing economy in urban areas.

sustainability

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the circular economy?

The World Economic Forum has created a series of initiatives to promote circularity.

1. Scale360° Playbook was designed to build lasting ecosystems for the circular economy and help solutions scale.

Scale360° Playbook Journey
Image: Scale360° Playbook

Its unique hub-based approach - launched this September - is designed to prioritize circular innovation while fostering communities that allow innovators from around the world to share ideas and solutions. Emerging innovators from around the world can connect and work together ideas and solutions through the UpLink, the Forum's open innovation platform.

Discover how the Scale360° Playbook can drive circular innovation in your community.

2. A new Circular Cars Initiative (CCI) embodies an ambition for a more circular automotive industry. It represents a coalition of more than 60 automakers, suppliers, research institutions, NGOs and international organizations committed to realizing this near-term ambition.

CCI has recently released a new series of circularity “roadmaps”, developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Strategy. These reports explain the specifics of this new circular transition.

Connect to Learn More

3. The World Economic Forum’s Accelerating Digital Traceability for Sustainable Production initiative brings together manufacturers, suppliers, consumers and regulators to jointly establish solutions and provide a supporting ecosystem to increase supply chain visibility and accelerate sustainability and circularity across manufacturing and production sectors.

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Globally, it is estimated that transitioning to a circular economy – which promotes the elimination of waste and continual safe use of natural resources – could generate $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030.

The World Economic Forum is supporting moves towards creating a worldwide circular economy through collaboration on The Circulars Accelerator 2021 programme.

The accelerator is a collaboration with UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s innovation crowdsourcing platform, and is led by professional services company Accenture in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab, and Schneider Electric.