Based on the 2018 provincial mill survey conducted by the ministry of forests, nearly half of the total volume of trees logged in BC ends up in one of 20 pulp and/or paper mills in the province.
THE MINISTRY OF FORESTS' 2018 mill survey reveals how little of the harvest of BC forests ends up as long-lasting lumber or plywood. The survey needs some analysis since it does not indicate how much of the volume of logs entering sawmills is later shipped off to pulp mills as either wood chips or hog fuel.
The mill survey includes the volume of wood that was cut on privately-owned land.
With end use expressed as a percentage of the total cut in BC, that looks like this:
The ministry's mill survey analysis makes clear some basics facts about the forest industry in BC. First, almost two-thirds of the volume of logs harvested in BC is turned into short-lived products like hog fuel, paper, pellets, shingles and shakes. Only the lumber and plywood are likely to survive longer than 25 years, and some of that won't make it even that long.
As more end users move away from paper for various reasons, the industry would be challenged to find an alternative use for the mountains of sawdust and woodchips lumber production creates. To maintain the current level of lumber production, the industry appears to be intent on turning the waste into compressed pellets which will be burned for energy. In this initiative they are supported by BC's Chief Forester Diane Nicholls. Burning sawdust for energy has been described by scientists as worse for the atmosphere than burning coal. In a 2021 letter to world leaders (download from link below), 500 scientists urged them to stop the burning of trees for energy.
The scientists wrote, "Overall, for each kilowatt hour of heat or electricity produced, using wood initially is likely to add two to three times as much carbon to the air as using fossil fuels."
In spite of the science, the BC ministry of forests seems intent on developing this backward idea. With an industry that turns over 50 percent of the forest it cuts into sawdust and wood chips, the only alternative may be to cut less forest. The forest industrial complex will respond to this challenge, of course, by spending money to convince the public that, somehow, the scientists have got it wrong.