What happens to trees
Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. They store the carbon and release the oxygen into the atmosphere, then use carbon to make wood. Trees mainly absorb CO₂ during their growth period.
Although the forest seems to be a permanent fixture, each individual tree has a defined lifetime. In Quebec’s forests, 80% of regeneration is natural. The remaining 20% is achieved through reforestation.
Harvesting of trees that have attained their full maturity helps to rejuvenate the forest, and the wood can be used to create useful products. Of course, it is important that the trees be removed in a respectful, environmentally responsible.
Every tree that is harvested has a use, and nothing goes to waste. At the sawmill, the tree is cut up to make planks. The sawdust and shavings produced at this stage are used to create other products, such as wood panels. The wood chips are used to produce pulp and paper. All other by-products are also developed; for example, bark is converted into biomass, which is then used to generate energy.
Wood products are ecological because they are made from a resource that is renewable, biodegradable and recyclable.
There are more than 10,000 products and by-products from wood. Thanks to recent innovations, growing numbers of products will be made from renewable resources.
The future is promising for bioproducts such as smart papers, new generations of cardboard, recoverable by-products and green chemistry products.
Wood can have more than one life. Wood products can be salvaged, reused or repurposed without necessarily having to be processed again. On average, 84% of demolition wood processed at sorting centres is recycled. All end-of-life wood by-products can be used as biofuel to produce steam and electricity. All salvaged papers and cardboard can be recycled 5 to 7 times.
At the end of their life, trees die and decompose, releasing all their stored carbon into the atmosphere. But there are other possibilities. If a mature tree is processed into durable materials (houses, floors or furniture) instead, the carbon continues to be stored. And that is positive for the environment.