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Annual biomass loss and potential value of urban tree waste in the United States

Formally Refereed
Authors: David J. Nowak, Eric J. Greenfield, Ryan M. Ash
Year: 2019
Type: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening


Urban trees provide numerous benefits to society, but upon removal, this resource is underutilized and often considered a waste product to be discarded. However, urban trees have a potential to be utilized for various products, create jobs and an income stream for cities. The latest data on urban forests in the United States were used to estimate the potential annual value that could be derived from urban tree waste. Assuming a mortality rate of 2%, annual urban woody biomass loss in the U.S. equates to about 46 million tonnes of fresh-weight merchantable wood or 7.2 billion board feet of lumber or 16 million cords of firewood. The potential annual value from urban wood waste ranges between $89-786 million depending upon the product derived (e.g., wood chips to lumber). States with the greatest urban wood product potential are Florida ($6.6–57.6 million/year) and Georgia ($6.0–52.7 million/year). Along with woody biomass, annual leaf loss has a potential to produce value. The value of nutrients in annual leaf litter is estimated at $551 million per year. In addition to direct revenue from sales, other environmental benefits can be derived through tree waste utilization that reduces landfill waste, use of fertilizers and fossil fuel use in energy production. There are various reasons why this potential maximum value from urban tree waste is not and likely cannot be attained, but its current use and value can be increased. Creating markets and systems to utilize urban tree removals and leaves can help enhance income for urban forest management as well as create social and environmental goods.


Leaf nutrients, Tree biomass, Urban forests, Urban tree recycling, Wood products


Nowak, David J.; Greenfield, Eric J.; Ash, Ryan M. 2019. Annual biomass loss and potential value of urban tree waste in the United States. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 46: 126469. 9 p.