Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Study on the Optimised Cascading Use of Wood

Study on the Optimised Cascading Use of Wood
Published on: 29/07/2016
This study aims to define the cascading use of wood and to assess the environmental and socio-economic impacts of cascading.

Other primary objectives of the study are to identify and analyse the barriers preventing cascading and the evaluation of possible measures that can be adapted to local conditions so they can be applied throughout the European Union. The study’s results should serve as a basis to develop good practice guidance on the cascading use of wood for policy-makers and value-chain stakeholders.

Background and context:

Cascading use of wood can improve the efficient use of resources. Maximisation of resource efficiency is a key objective to implement a circular economy and to face the challenges of increased demand for biomass forecasted in the coming years (caused by increased reliance on bioenergy and by the development of innovative bio-based products).

There’s  been an increased focus on the concept of cascading use in recent decades, reflecting a growing demand for raw materials but its definition and implementation is ambiguous across sectors and MS.

Main findings of the study are:

• Cascading use can be defined as the efficient utilisation of resources by using residues and recycled materials to extend total biomass availability within a given system. Cascading at the market level (sectors and products) can be quantified through wood flow analysis.


• The cascading use of wood in the EU happens in a variety of forms and contexts. Multiple barriers to cascading need to be overcome to realise its full potential. These exist to both the provision and utilisation of wood and include technical barriers, market barriers, and governance barriers. Overcoming these barriers will require a mix of approaches depending on specific local circumstances.


• The different wood volumes arising at different stages of the wood flow deserve special mention. Whilst improvements in the recovery and utilisation of post-consumer wood (waste wood) are necessary to meet circular economy and resource efficiency objectives, industrial residues present a far greater volume potential for cascading. Despite this, the reasons to prompt EU action in this area tend to arise as a response to the competing and incentivised usage of such material for energy purposes, rather than the specific promotion of material use in isolation.


• Improving the cascading and resource efficient use of wood requires interventions all throughout the wood flow. Identified measures to promote the cascading use of wood focus largely on the recovery of post-consumer wood in line with existing circular economy and resource efficiency initiatives. However, strong efforts are also needed to address the current imbalance between material and energy uses of industrial residues, where a more significant potential for cascading exists.

Policy Implications:

The study suggests that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to improve resource efficiency and implement cascade use of wood. Rather a mix of coordinated approaches, depending on specific local circumstances, will allow overcoming the multiple barriers to full implementation of cascading.

The results of the study are intended to serve as a basis to develop good practice guidance on the cascading use of wood for policy-makers and value-chain stakeholders.

Study on the Optimised Cascading Use of Wood