Cascading maximizes resource effectiveness by using biomass in products that create the most economic value over multiple lifetimes. This approach to production and consumption states that energy recovery should be the last option, and only after all higher-value products and services have been exhausted.

This concept is often associated with the forestry sector, in which cascading use can be effectively demonstrated. For example, a resource effective cascade may start with recently harvested, solid wood that goes into:

  1. Veneer wood products, after one life cycle then becomes
  2. Particle-based products, which then becomes
  3. Fiber-based products, which then becomes
  4. Bio-based chemical products, which then becomes
  5. Energy for electricity and heat


WBCSD Forest Solutions Group


Mondi: Cascading use of wood


  • Natural forests declined from 4.28 Billion to 3.99 Billion ha (loss of 290 M ha)
  • Growing demand for materials and energy could lead to a supply deficit of wood in the coming decade.
  • To date, 10% of the world’s population consumes over 50% of paper.
  • Planted forests increased 167 MM to 277 MM (increased of 110 MM ha) by 2015.
  • The amount of wood we take from forests and plantations each year may need to triple by 2050.


  • Adoption of an ambitious Circular Economy Package by the European Community including revised legislative proposals. One of the proposals is on economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes (eg for packaging).
  • Currently regulatory policies often hinder the cascading of wood products due to conflicting environmental or economic objectives (e.g. biomass energy targets).
  • Economic factors such as commodity prices and consumer demand are critical in determining the financial incentives for the cascading uses of wood.
  • There’s little to no coordination on policies across wood-based sectors to promote the most resource efficient uses of wood.

Working towards a Solution

  • Mondi’s position, aligned with CEPI’s[1], places the cascading use principle at the heart of its climate and energy policy, with a view to ensuring the most efficient use of available biomass to contribute to economic growth and employment.
  • Mondi optimizes the use of virgin and recycled wood fibre by applying the cascading use principle, together with its commitment to resource efficiency.
  • Public awareness and implementation of efficient national waste hierarchies are crucial to successful cascading and recycling systems.
  • Mondi and WWF partnered to analyze and share a common understanding on the most efficient use of wood. Key messages from the analysis were published and promoted[2].

Key benefits

  • Highlights responsible forest management by recognizing and, in many cases, increasing the potential wealth associated with the sustainable use of forest products.
  • Recycling and cascading wood and fibre systems create a succession of livelihoods and wealth creating opportunities.
  • The CEPI-supported “Wood Flows in Europe study” shows that with recycling and the cascading  use of wood and by products, the already resource efficient European pulp and paper industry doubles wood efficiency (1m³ of created products worth 2m³ of wood)

[1] Confederation of European Paper Industries

[2] http://www.wwf.eu/?263091/Cascading-use-of-wood-products-report