Woodchipping in Australia

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Woodchipping plant at the Port of Geelong, Australia

Woodchipping is the act and industry of chipping wood for pulp. Timber is converted to woodchips and sold, primarily, for paper manufacture. In Australia, woodchips are produced by clearcutting or thinning of native forests or plantations. In other parts of the world, forestry practices such as short rotation coppice are the usual methods adopted.[citation needed]

Uses of wood chips includes the manufacture of particle board (or 'chip board') and other engineered woods, mulch and fuel.

Sources and process[edit]

Historically, the primary sources of wood chips in Australia has been the extensive Eucalyptus hardwood forests found throughout temperate areas of the country. In more recent times, a significant proportion comes from managed hardwood and softwood plantations.

During the late 1960s and '70s the high demand for paper and the relatively low cost and availability of the native forests made the establishment of a woodchipping industry a viable proposition. Conversely, the establishment of a woodchipping industry made it economically feasible to clearfell areas of mixed or substandard forest that could not otherwise have been felled. Clearfelling is a controversial forest practice in Australia, and opponents argue that the woodchipping industry is culpable for its continuation.

Woodchips are converted into a fibre that can be made into various grades of paper or rayon for the textile industry. Most processing and value adding takes place outside of Australia. [1] The Australian economy benefits directly from a low cost and high volume export commodity. [2]


Wood chips, as a by-product of the timber industry, have been used in many ways for centuries, for example as a material for the production of wallpaper or as a disposable floor covering in butchers shop or drinking houses. Wood pulp is the primary market for the woodchipping industry in Australia.

The practice, known as woodchipping, was to make use of most of the woody material in a tree to produce wood chips. This was then converted into paper, hardwood pulp is mainly used for printing paper and softwood pulp is added for good quality.[3] An energy intensive process, it also involved the use of bleaches and other toxic chemicals. This stage of the process, known as Kraft pulping, was primarily performed in Japan and elsewhere. High demand for paper products saw purpose built bulk carriers increase the export of woodchips from Australia to Japan.

The separation of the chipping stage and the pulping and paper mills required the supply of energy usually sourced from by-products of the process. Additional energy expenditure is found in the shipping of raw materials and export of the finished product.

See also[edit]

Woodchip mill companies and locations[edit]

Woodchip critics and opponents[edit]


  • Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (15 November 2005). "Australian Forest and Wood Product Statistics. March–June quarters 2005" (PDF). abareconomics. pp. 50–51. ISSN 1449-1850. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-06. Retrieved 2007-03-13. Total woodchips; Quantity 2002-03, 03-04, 04-05- China: 67.6 0.0 69.6 0.0 Japan kt 4 790.0 4 653.7 4 997.3 Other kt 579.5 610.2 531.4 Total kt 5 437.1 5 263.9 5 598.3 (emphasis added)
    Quarters 2004-05 a Pulpwood logs are included in the table exports of roundwood. b Broadleaved woodchip volumes were confidential from February 2000 to May 2000. From 1 June 2000, ABS have applied selected country and state restrictions to broadleaved woodchip exports. From February 2003 all state details are confidential. c Bone dry tonnes. na Not available. Sources: ABS, International Trade, Australia, cat. no. 5465.0, Canberra; ABARE.
  • The Wilderness Society (2001-01-25). "Implications of Selling Native Forests for 9 Cents a Tonne". Home > Campaigns > Forests > Tasmanian Forests. Archived from the original on 2006-10-08. Retrieved 2007-03-14. The Wilderness Society has revealed today that Forestry Tasmania is planning to clearfell and woodchip areas of pure rainforest in north-west Tasmania and then convert the cleared areas to plantations. 
  • Open Mind Research Group on behalf of their client Environment Victoria (1994-12-04). "Woodchipping to Japan - Joint Environment Group Commissioned Public Opinion". Forest Fact File. Retrieved 2007-03-14. Newspoll - December 1994 - To the Question "Next a question about native forests. Do you personally approve or disapprove of trees from Australian's native forests being fell and exported as woodchips to Japan? 80.3% of Australians disapproved, 11.7% approved, 8.0% undecided. 
  • Wilson "Ironbar" Tuckey MP (2000-09-28). "Tuckey writes to Tasmania Together committee over woodchipping - Media release". Media Releases The Hon Wilson Tuckey MP Former Minister for Forestry and Conservation. Archived from the original on 2006-09-17. Retrieved 2007-03-14. Mr Tuckey was responding to reports in the Launceston Examiner suggesting the phasing out of woodchipping in Tasmania. Press reports in the United States are quoting well known green activists as saying that the US fires, including forest and property destruction, are the result of past forest management policies that prevented harvesting. This has created 'cadaverous' forests overpopulated with sick, dead and skinny trees — the perfect fuel for a wildfire. 
  • Warwick Frost (1997-03-03). "Review of John Dargavel, Fashioning Australia's forests, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1995.". The Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History. School of Humanities, James Cook University. ISSN 1321-5752. Retrieved 2007-04-04. The export of woodchips from Australian native forests over the last few decades has been one of Australia's greatest economic and environmental disasters. Heavily subsidised and poorly managed, wood chipping has continued despite the trend amongst Australia's policy makers towards the rhetoric of economic rationalism. Even though only those with a vested interest could argue for wood chipping on economic grounds, it has managed to gain the strong support of both Labour and Liberal/National Parties. Yet despite these contradictions and the enormous passion the wood chipping debate generates, historians have tended to ignore this issue. John Dargavel's excellent history of Australian forestry goes a long way to filling this gap. Dr Warwick Frost lectures in the School of Economics, La Trobe University. 


  1. ^ Dept. of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (2007-01-13). "Why Australia needs a Wood and Paper Industry Strategy". DAFF. Archived from the original on 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2007-03-13. It will also help cut Australia s bill for imports of wood and paper products. Imports of these products currently exceed our exports by $2 billion a year. 
  2. ^ Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (15 November 2005). "Australian Forest and Wood Product Statistics. March–June quarters 2005" (PDF). abareconomics. ISSN 1449-1850. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-06. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 1999 - 2003-04 ($m); 'Logs category' Hardwood sawlogs 249.2 250.0 244.1 259.2 249.2: Softwood sawlogs b 404.2 467.1 591.0 608.5 578.3 : Cypress sawlogs 18.7 22.2 22.5 22.9 22.8 : Plywood and veneer logs 34.5 37.9 34.8 44.8 39.2 : Wood panels pulplogs 55.2 56.8 44.7 57.8 51.7  : Export woodchip hardwood pulplogs 300.4 328.2 291.9 349.0 338.0 : Export woodchip softwood pulplogs 62.0 81.8 52.0 50.3 64.8 : Paper pulplogs 106.3 97.4 88.0 120.8 138.3 (emphasis added) 
  3. ^ "Forest Products Commission - Education - Products from Trees - developing the sustainable use of the States plantation and native forest resources in Western Australia". www.fpc.wa.gov.au. Archived from the original on 2008-07-20. Retrieved 2008-03-11. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dargavel, John (1995) Fashioning Australia's forests, Oxford. Oxford University Press.
  • Lines, William J. (1998) A long walk in the Australian bush, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press.
  • Mcdonald, Jan (1975) The Australian woodchip industry : a bibliography Canberra : Subject Reference Section, Parliamentary Library Legislative Service, 1975 "This bibliography has been compiled in connection with the inquiry into the Australian woodchip industry by the Senate Select Committee on Social Environment"
  • Routley, R. and V. (1973) The Fight for the Forests: The Takeover of Australian Forests for Pines, Wood Chips and Intensive Forestry, Research School of Social Sciences, ANU, Canberra.
  • Tamaki, Mitsuzo. (1999) Green business alliance : The case of a Japanese/Australian joint forest plantation project. Asia Pacific journal of economics & business, Dec. 1999, p. 76-96
  • Thompson, Herb and Tracy, Julie.(1995) Woodchipping in Western Australia : timber workers vs. conservationists. Perth, W.A. : Murdoch University. ISBN 0-86905-453-8. Working paper (Murdoch University. Dept. of Economics) ; no. 135..
  • Walter, Terry (1976) “Some Cost-benefit Aspects of Wood-Chipping in Western Australia”, Economic Activity, 56- 65.

External links[edit]