A 30-year study published in the Forest Ecology and Management journal in September 2021 showed that the Brazilian Forest Service’s programme of forest concessions initiated in 2006 will maintain the current rate of timber production for only one harvest production. The government outlined a potential concession area in the Brazilian Amazon of 35 million hectares, but research has shown that to be sustainable, logging would need to occur at just 2% of the current rate. The study recommended that alternative sources of timber be found.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, felled timber, including hardwoods regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is exported to destinations such as Europe and the US. The trees in the Congo forest store a third more carbon per hectare than those in the Amazon and harbour endangered wildlife.
However, since 2004, the government has accelerated the extension of timber transport roads into the forest to enable logging concessions, bringing with them commercial hunting, charcoal making and slash-and-burn agriculture for one of the world’s fastest-growing populations.
Elsewhere, six environmental groups are in the processes of suing the US government for allowing the logging of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, after the Trump administration amended a protection prohibiting harvesting trees of 21 or greater inches in diameter, while residents of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in Australia are attempting to stop the state government from going ahead with allocating logging concessions in the Beerwah State Forest, which is home to threatened species.
Even the Solomon Islands, a small Pacific nation made up of more than 900 islands, is at risk of losing biodiversity and ecosystems upon which citizens depend for their livelihoods thanks to aggressive logging at nearly 20 times a sustainable rate.
Legal and social challenges like these show that whether or not timber is legally logged, the world’s forests are under threat, and alternative materials need to be sourced. Fortunately, bamboo-plastic composite products such as those from building materials group Eva-Last are reducing environmental impact while recreating the beauty and elegance of natural wood.
Eva-Last CEO and co-founder, Marc Minne, says the company substitutes 180m3 of composite materials for hardwoods every year in the production of its decking and cladding products. “That equates to approximately 120,000 trees that are saved annually. To provide a more practical picture, a 200m2 hardwood deck would require nearly 13 trees to be cut down for planed logs. Hardwood decks typically need to be replaced every ten years through exposure to the elements and weathering.”
The potential impact of decking on the environment is immense. However, Eva-Last’s composite building materials makes use of bamboo as a raw material, which grows up to 50 times faster than hardwood timber and releases 35% more oxygen into the air. “Planed logs for decking produce a massive amount of wastage, sometimes up to 80% of the tree, but with bamboo fibres we can bring wastage down to as little as 2%. Bamboo resources are widely available, easily replenished and naturally antibacterial,” says Minne.
In a co-extrusion process, the bamboo fibres are blended with recycled plastics to create the core of the board. Depending on the technology, various manufacturing processes add the natural timber look, in a selection of colours and textures to match any architectural design while providing the durable benefits of composite materials from the elements to pests and being exceptionally low-maintenance.
“Every year, Eva-Last recycles more than 26,000 tons of plastic that would have gone to landfills or ended up in the oceans. Recycling of just one ton of plastic results in CO2 savings of 0.73 tonnes, which is the same as preventing 4,000km of travel in a car. To date, we have prevented millions of tonnes of plastics from reaching and spoiling the natural environment,” Minne adds.
Recycled plastics in conjunction with bamboo fibres can be processed to create products that are not only holistically sustainable but immensely durable and strong. “To do this, we have powered what is an energy-intensive process through solar energy, installing nearly 90,000 m2 of solar panels at our manufacturing facility since 2017. This means we are saving 2,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere every single day,” says Minne.
Eva-Last has been operating with an environmentally conscious mindset since 2006, from the choices of sustainable raw materials to ensuring that renewable energy is harnessed to create sustainable building products.
“Eva-Last has been internationally recognised for our commitment to environmental sustainability and we’re proud of the work we do to promote timber alternatives that are gentle on the Earth. We don’t cut down any trees, we use no toxic chemicals in either manufacturing or maintenance of our products, and we have reduced our waste impact to almost zero, ensuring our carbon footprint is minimal,” says Minne.
“We believe that as people around the world become increasingly concerned with environmental sustainability, our eco-friendly credentials will be as important as the incredible technical engineering that goes into creating beautiful, durable high-performance products that enhance our living spaces,” he concludes.