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Memphis Urban Wood

cut side of a large hardwood tree decomposing in a landfill
The Works Inc. Room and Board Classic American Hardwood Anderson Tully The Davey Tree Company Woodland Tree Service City Wood Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Division of Forestry USDA Forest Service

Memphis is known for music, catfish and amazing BBQ, but Memphis is also a city of trees seldom matched by other U.S. Cities. When those trees come down due to age or disease, a weather event or development, the vast majority of the tree is taken to a landfill. The cost of disposal, the release of carbon in those trees as they rot, and the loss of job-creating revenue are a lyric worthy of delta blues.

The Problem:

Approximately 200,000 tons of wood waste is collected in Memphis and Shelby County, TN each year. A tree is 50% carbon. Every ton of wood waste releases 1,000 lbs of carbon as it rots. As the wood rots, the carbon combines with oxygen creating 3,600 lbs of CO2—going back into the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change.

Equally problematic is the loss of revenue from wood waste—both as durable products and the jobs connected to producing wood products (flooring to furniture) and wood by-products. Memphis communities with high unemployment rates lack equitable access to economic opportunities and the employment highway in particular.

Our Solution:

Urban Wood Economy, in collaboration with our partners, is building a supply chain for a “biomass campus” in Memphis city limits to process ALL the wood waste into carbon capturing products such as lumber, biochar and compost. In partnership with The Works Inc. (a Memphis-based CDC), we are developing a 10-acre campus in the Klondike neighborhood to receives tree “waste” from all around the Memphis beltway and wildland urban interface areas and working to create an onramp to the employment highway. The biomass campus is designed to be zero-waste facility as well as revenue-generating so that is becomes a self-sufficient model that will also support local tree-planting efforts.

Check back this summer for an update on our Memphis Urban Wood biomass campus launch!

In the meantime, review this fact sheet from Memphis Urban Wood with more details about this project.

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"The good folks at Urban Wood Economy truly understand the opportunity and the circularity of urban wood. Highest use, in highest volumes for the longest period of time, to extract maximum value. And practice what they preach."
Mike Larrivee, P.G. | Director of Sustainable Initiatives, The Works, Inc.