Skip to main content

MDF recycling: a safety net against volatile raw material prices

Senior Engagement Manager

Long term availability of virgin timber is becoming increasingly problematic.  MDF Recovery's technology offers security against rising virgin timber prices and fragile supply chains.

Turkey is the second largest MDF manufacturing country in the world, producing 7.5 million cubic metres of Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) in 2021 – that’s the equivalent of filling two Wembley stadiums with MDF.  MDF Recovery (MDFR), a company which has developed the world’s first technology that can economically recycle MDF, has recently been working on a market intelligence project to determine the feasibility of deploying their technology in Turkey.[1]

Direct engagement with companies across the Turkish MDF supply chain unveiled a host of insights on-trend with MDF manufacturer challenges in Europe.  Most prominently, all the companies emphasised the impact of virgin timber prices, with a price increase reported between 80 and 150% since the beginning of the pandemic.  Several reasons for this were cited.  Firstly, the fall in the valuation of the Lira against the U.S dollar caused a rise in Turkish virgin timber exports.  Secondly, and in connection with the previous point, the Turkish currency devaluation has caused a surge in demand for local wood, as imports from North America and other nations have become uneconomical.  Thirdly, and similarly across Europe, there was a rise in demand for wood-based materials during the COVID-19 pandemic as during the lockdown many people renovated their homes. Finally, the war in Ukraine, which is a primary wood supplier to some of the largest manufacturers in Turkey, has caused a trickle-down effect on the supply of softwood from eastern Europe to Turkey and other nations.

Across Europe, long-term impacts on softwood fibre availability have come about from an ongoing bark beetle disaster that destroyed over 40 million cubic metres of spruce forest in the Czech Republic in 2021, and has destroyed other parts of central and Western European forests.[2] Furthermore, there has been an increase in climate change-induced damage to forests, such as annual storms, which, as with the beetle, creates a short term oversupply of virgin wood before causing long term shortages.  Despite the challenges associated with raw material price fluctuations, manufacturers across the globe continue to either burn or landfill wood-based panels, including MDF.  Countries with large production and limited internal resource, including Turkey, will need to shift away from their reliance on linear production models dependent on virgin materials.

Presently, MDFR is cooperating closely with a number of international waste managers, manufacturers and other players across the MDF industry, offering a safety net against volatile virgin timber prices and fragile supply chains, and unlocking circularity for MDF.

[1] The importance of successful exploitation in markets such as Turkey was recognised by Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency, which part funded the project.