Calls to recycle fallen hardwood

By Taylah Eastwell

With enough tree debris to “fill the MCG” currently lying on the ground across the Dandenong Ranges, a local tree cutting service is calling on locals to recycle our quality local timber.

Purple Hat Woodworking & Co operations manager Nicholas Schill said it is “shattering” to see 300 year old trees used for mulch and firewood following weather events in the Ranges.

“When trees fall down in the hills they just get turned into firewood and mulch, and we’re talking mountain ash that has been around for 300 years sucking in all that carbon. It’s quality Australian hardwood that you can’t get anymore,” he said.

The Ferntree Gully based woodworking company has had a busy few weeks, with many Hills residents keen to recycle fallen trees for a number of household projects.

Using an Australian designed and made portable timber sawmill, Purple Hat Woodworking & Co come out on site to cut trees into custom lengths for use as posts, beams, weatherboards, flooring, decking, benchtops, seating and wooden slabs, but the options for recycling hardwood are endless.

Over the past few weeks, the team have attended a number of Ranges homes to assist with clearing trees and cutting.

“One job is a woman who has a heap of Blackwoods down, we are helping her turn the timber into decking to fix her deck that was a bit damaged as well as some coffee tables and raw slabs so she can sell it down the line. Instead of paying to get the tree cleared, she’s making money off it,” he said.

“We’ve also done a number of fence posts and pailings to help rebuild a fenceline that was damaged. You can literally cut anything and build anything with it,” he said.

A number of posts have appeared on social media in recent weeks, with Hills locals flouting ideas of a wooden community table as a symbol of the devastating storm they all survived – some suggesting family names and names of local emergency service crews could be engraved in the timber.

Mr Schill, who grew up in Belgrave, said a community table would be a “good, creative idea” for Dandenong Ranges residents following the traumatic storm.

“It’s pretty easy, it would be no worries to build something like that. It’s as simple as slabbing the top of the log,” he said.

“These trees have done 300 years of work. If you mill it, you lock in the carbon and it stays as structural timber and can be put back into the community where the individual gets to use the asset,” he said.

Shadow Assistant Minister for Forestry Gary Blackwood also recently called on the Victorian Government to engage logging contractors to assist with the salvage of fallen trees within storm ravaged areas of the state.

‘Surely it makes sense to engage these professional operators, use the appropriate equipment to do a proper clean up, remove the future fire risk and utilise a resource to provide timber products to a market that is in short supply. This is more responsible than leaving it to rot and release carbon, instead of being processed into products that store carbon.

Mr Blackwood said there was a misconception in the community that because a tree had been storm damaged it was in some way less valuable to the industry or could not be used to make timber products.

‘Victoria has a proud history of using every piece of our harvested material in an effective sustainable way.

According to Mr Blackwood, it would be a “win-win” if the government could provide products produced from fallen timber to homeowners as they rebuild or repair as part of a support package.