Wisconsin organization works to repurpose wood from urban trees

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin organization is working to connect woodworkers and builders with diseased trees that typically end up in landfills after being cut down.

Wisconsin Urban Wood repurposes urban trees that have been taken down because of disease or to make room for new development projects, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Trees that aren’t harvested at a farm are considered to be urban.

The municipality focuses on keeping residents safe when it comes to taking down trees, which often means trees are taken down quickly and sent off to be chipped or to a landfill, said Dwayne Sperber, a founding partner of the organization.

“Safety of residents is our priority in all of this, but we’re (also) creating change,” Sperber said.

Urban Wood works to find ways for wood to be recycled into something useful, such as tables, chairs or buildings, he said. The organization doesn’t cut down trees for lumber, but focuses on repurposing trees that have already been taken down.

Many trees in the early 2000s had to be cut down because of the emerald ash borers, an insect that’s deadly to trees, Sperber said. That’s when carpenters and builders first saw the opportunity to find uses for urban wood.

Milwaukee has become a model in its process for handling trees, Sperber said. The city sends unwanted trees to a sawmill to be turned into lumber, which is then put back into the community as flooring, furniture or some other wood product, he said.

Eau Claire is a member of Wisconsin Urban Wood. Many fallen trees in the city are used in parks or sent to wood shops in local high schools.