This must be done in concordance with government policies which encourage energy and material use efficiency. Many means can be used to accomplish this. Half of commercial wood is cut for timber, one-quarter is used for pulp, and one-eighth for plywood or chipwood or similar products. But waste is considerable in the milling process, and much wood is lost in the process of manufacturing plywood and chips. Only one-third of each log is converted into sawnwood in the Brazilian Amazon, mainly because of untrained labor forces and ill-maintained equipment (Uhl, et al., 1997). Sawmill efficiency could and must be increased – if machinery, maintenance, and worker training were improved, much less timber would need to be extracted. These authors estimate that sawmills operating efficiently would consume only one-third as much timber as currently used. At present, many government policies encourage wasteful milling of timber. For instance, governments try to encourage local economies by prohibiting or discouraging the export of logs, so that they must be milled at home. This has created highly inefficient local milling industries. And there are other destructive policies. In Zaire, for instance, the government compels timber companies to process 70% of their wood within the country, and since little profit can be made this way, the rate of timber removal has risen so as to increase the amount of high-grade export timber (Repetto, 1990).

There is also much wastage in resource use. One-third of Japanese plywood (made mainly from tropical hardwoods) is used to make molds for concrete; these are rapidly discarded after a few uses. House beams are put too close together, and a great deal of wood could be saved by spacing them more widely. A great deal of construction wood is lost as cut off ends, or is simply thrown away. Much perishable food is spoiled due to inadequate transportation, storage or handling facilities. One could multiply this list for every industry involving tropical forest products. Much of the waste is simply due to careless use of an apparently inexhaustible resource. The most egregious wastage comes from the huge areas of tropical forest which are simply burned to make space for agriculture. They are not even logged for valuable timber; they are simply destroyed for short-lived agricultural projects. That efficiencies have not been introduced is a consequence of the former abundance of pristine forest and its apparent unlimited nature – a fallacy not yet appreciated by many countries. We need to develop substitutes for fuelwood, the demand for which is destructive of forests in a number of developing countries, such as India. We need to encourage recycling and increase the longevity of products.

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