The importance of wood
Wood is a strategic raw material and, along with water, our only naturally renewable resource. Slovenia has an abundance of it, with sufficient quantity and quality of raw materials for the domestic wood processing industry.
Wood’s accessibility, functionality and attractiveness have been valued since ancient times, as evidenced by the many important architectural structures made of wood, which we have inherited from our ancestors, including the centuries-old hayracks and the millennia-old wooden wheel. They also made furniture out of wood, surrounding themselves with this material that evokes a feeling of warmth. This legacy has had a key impact on the development of Slovenian craftsmanship and its rich cultural heritage. With today’s technology and expertise, the range of wooden end and semi-finished products is much broader. Wood has a wide range of applications for decorative purposes and interior furniture, and is increasingly being used as a building block for wood furniture and construction.
Wood as a natural and renewable resource
Wood is a natural and renewable raw material and plays a very important role as a building material. Using of wood reduces the release of CO2 back to the atmosphere, as it remains stored in the lumber (trees bind CO2 in their wood as they grow).
Wood products’ reusability and recyclability are also important, as wood waste or scraps can be reused as the main building block of a new product. Wood products are often designed according to the principles of the circular economy, where, through recovery, reuse and recycling, the waste from one industry becomes the input material for another. This helps reduce the consumption of raw materials and the amount of waste, which in turn contributes to reducing carbon footprints (greenhouse gas emissions).
Wood is therefore the material that allows a certain standard to be maintained with the least possible impact on the environment. Products made from 100% solid wood are 100% green products, made up of three basic ingredients, namely sun, water and carbon; they are fully degradable and reusable.
Scrap wood generated during production can also be used as a renewable energy source to heat rooms and water. The industry can therefore be energy self-sufficient.
The proper installation and maintenance of wood products lengthens said product’s service life compared to wood left outdoors. Wood used for products stores CO2 for decades, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere if used for energy, or if biodegraded in the forest. To protect wood, both protective systems and various mechanical and chemical treatments are used.
Slovenia is the third-most forested country in Europe. The stock of wood in Slovenia's forests, which are among the largest in the EU, is around 350 million cubic metres, or about 300 cubic metres per hectare of forest area. In this context, the annual increase in wood mass is around 8.7 million cubic metres.
The high rate of forest cover makes wood a strategic raw material. However, we have so far failed to make sufficient use of this natural resource, since a lot of wood remains in the forest or is exported with no added value. There are several reasons for this. The most important are the increased use of non-wood materials and the lack of interaction between companies and stakeholders in the wood chain, where integration is crucial for the faster development of the industry.
Wood processing industry
The wood processing industry accounts for around 12% of the manufacturing industry in terms of the number of companies (there are around 990 companies classified in the Standard Classification of Activities as C16 – Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and C31 – Manufacture of furniture). Annual revenues average around EUR 1.4 billion and the industry employs an average of just over 12,700 people. The industry's target export markets are mainly Germany, Italy, Austria, Croatia and Switzerland.
Wood and sustainable development
Wood makes an important contribution to sustainable development, mitigating the effects of climate change. Growing one cubic metre of wood absorbs more carbon dioxide than processing one cubic metre of wood releases. Wood processing is also more energy-efficient than the processing of other materials, as much less energy is used to process wood than other materials.
Wood is seen primarily as a raw material for furniture and construction purposes, but during felling and processing, residues are also produced, forming industrially useless wood (branches, useless shavings, dust). Although these residues cannot be used for products, they are useful as an energy source.
The wood industry does not produce hazardous waste negatively affecting the environment. In woodworking companies, waste, known as scrap, is used as raw material for the manufacture of composites such as glued laminated timber and boards, but can also be used for energy self-sufficiency. Because of our concern for the environment, we are committed to using more wood – both in construction and in furnishing.
The role of the State
In Slovenia, we strive to create the most favourable conditions for the operation and development of wood processing companies, which we do by supporting companies and by cooperating with them and other stakeholders in the wood sector. Among others, we work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia, the Biotechnical Faculty, the ECO Fund, and wood associations. The development of the wood industry is supported in various ways.
- By co-funding joint and individual appearances at fairs abroad and supporting business and economic delegations, we promote the internationalisation of the Slovenian wood industry.
- Stakeholders are provided with training through established competence centres and open invitations to tenders for refundable and non-refundable cohesion funds.
- Particular attention is paid to the promotion of wood and wood processing. This includes The Charm of Wood exhibition, the Creative Sources project, the annual stand at the International Fair of Crafts, the Strategic Research Innovation Partnership on Smart Buildings and Home with Wood Chain, the Architecture Forum and the Living with Wood forum.
Wood is Beautiful
We are aware that bringing stakeholders together and strengthening the wood chain into an integrated whole is essential for the revitalisation of the domestic wood processing industry. The action Plan "Wood is Beautiful" places the wood processing industry among the country’s most strategic industries, thus giving wood its due importance. In 2015, the Wood Industry Directorate was established, which under the slogan "Let's Use Slovenian Wood" strives to accelerate the development of the wood industry and wood construction according to the model of circular, low-carbon economy based on energy self-sufficiency.