In Croydon an estimated 400 tonnes of waste wood is produced each year from windblown trees or trees which need to be thinned and the council hopes to use the new kiln - called Viper - to make cost-effective charcoal out of it.
Bob Roseberry, parks manager, said: 'Our main thrust is to convert urban waste wood into charcoal, but there is also a wider agenda which is the regeneration of woodlands in this country.'
Mr Roseberry said the three-month project was part of Croydon's desire to be a green borough: the council was one of the first to pioneer composting of waste material. If successful the pilot project will be copied by the London Trees Officers Association, converting waste from 5.9 million trees in London's parks, woodlands and housing estates into charcoal.
The mobile Viper kiln burns wood continuously, is more cost-effective than traditional kilns and a lot cleaner, said David Hutchinson, its inventor. 'People are just beginning to realise that we are wasting a natural, sustainable resource,' he added. 'There is a big woodlands management problem in Britain.'
British wood for charcoal is much more expensive than from countries like Brazil, mainly due to lack of
availability and its high quality (it is quick to burn). Landlords have no incentive to cultivate wood from sustainable forests so it is left to waste.
The charcoal is worth about pounds 700 a tonne, so the Viper's projected price of between pounds 15,000 and pounds 20,000 could be recouped very quickly.