Is Wood Recyclable or Garbage?


This picture shows a pile of wood waste. Large image.

Is wood recyclable or garbage? Can recycled wood be reused? for something else of value when you’re finished with it? Or, do you need to throw it out in a landfill?

Using an old saying, we can rephrase the question like this: Is one man’s trash another man’s treasure?

The short answer to this question is Yes, we can recycle wood. Actually, it’s very easy to do.

In this article, we will show how it’s possible to recycle wood and discuss what’s meant by this. We will also discuss how to dispose of wood and answer the question “Why would you want to waste this resource by throwing it in the landfill?” In addition, we will discuss the differences between recycling, upcycling, and repurposing.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, I’ll earn a commission, at no cost to you. To find out more, see my full disclosure.

Is It Possible To Recycle Wood Products

First of all, what do we mean by “Recycling Wood?” We are talking about saving wood scraps, sawdust, wood chips, etc. and reusing them or selling them to others.

We can reuse wood. So, it is a resource or asset. In 2008, people threw approximately 90,651 tons of wood into landfills!

Source for information.

How can you go about recycling wood? Actually, there are many ways to do this. One method involves turning waste wood into compressed pellets. These pellets have a very low moisture content. People use them as an energy source. However, there is controversy regarding this.

This picture shows recycled wood pellets.
Recycled Wood Pellets

You can collect and then sell old wooden palettes. In addition, you can make and sell projects using scrap wood. For example, you can use:

  • Driftwood
  • Tree Bark
  • Tree Stumps
  • Reclaimed Wood (This can be a wooden item from a Thrift Store or an old wooden item you have acquired)

Some of the projects you can make include:

  • Shelves
  • Tables
  • Birdhouses
  • Cutting Boards
  • Clocks
  • Signs
  • Many, many other items

Is Wood Recyclable or Garbage: Getting Rid of Wood Scraps

Well, not everyone can afford their own briquetting machine to take care of scrap wood.  However, you realize that it’s wasteful to throw wood away at the landfill. What are you to do?

One approach is to find a wood recycling center near you. Use the list below:

search.earth911.com – You need to enter your Zipcode so the search can be centered around it. You can also enter the Material you need to get rid of and the Within field allows you to control the search radius. There are over 350 materials and 100,000 listings in their database. The search results tell you the types of materials accepted. To find out more, you can click on the “more” link to view full information and visit the website. Another site like this is www.recyclefinder.com.

berecycled.org/search – The accepts the Zipcode and does not seem to have as many features as the sites above. However, it lets you bring up the website for the recycling center in a convenient way.

recyclenation.com/find – This is like the others. However, it allows you to choose the disposal Material with helpful buttons and lists relating to the button choice.

www.recyclingcenters.org – This seems to be a more basic and easy-to-use search site.

This picture shows the words Good and Bad on pieces of paper. It symbolizes a choice between Good/Useful and Bad/Garbage.
Distinguish between good and bad

How Do You Distinguish Between Useful Wood And Garbage

This is a significant matter. You can’t recycle everything. Many recycling centers do not accept wood with parasites, for example. You might need to check the terms and policies of the individual center. Some might still accept items like this. The same holds true for wood coated with a chemical or some preservative such as creosote. Also, Lead Paint often has special disposal requirements. Once again, you need to check the terms and policies of the particular landfill or recycling center.

Wood is useful and not garbage if it can be made into something else. For example, wood from an old project or from the Thrift Store can be reused. You can strip off an old stain or finish. Use sandpaper or a wood plane for this. Another option is to use the existing finish for the new project.

This picture shows old wood with nails
Nails In Wood

How To Dispose Of Wood With Nails (Construction Wood Recycling)

Many recycling centers will accept wood with nails in it, such as studs from a construction site, and similar. They can use magnets to help separate the nails from the wood. That way, the end products do not contain bits of the dangerous metal materials.

Another option is to burn the wood with nails. A magnet can extract ferrous nails from the ash. Here’s a good one to use:

Master Magnetics Strong Magnet | Powerful Magnet with Ergonomic Handle

This magnet has many features:

  • Powerful
  • Compact
  • Comfortable design
  • Low weight

See the Magnet on Amazon.

However, burning wood can be extremely wasteful. It is potentially dangerous to the environment along with your health. When you burn stained wood you can release dangerous compounds.

While we are on this subject, I will stress again that you should never burn wood that has been treated with Creosote. Creosote reduces wood rot. It is often used for wood that is to be placed underground (As with the bottom of fence posts, for example). It can release toxic chemicals when burned.

One trick is to use scrap wood as a guide or supporting piece for your work. I have done this many times and it often helps to reduce clutter. You can let the old wood serve a purpose and be of help.

Where Can I Dump Wood For Free

So, is there a place where I can get rid of wood for no cost? Once again, you need to check the local recycling centers. Not all of them will accept wood for free; however, some will.

The list in the section above (“Is Wood Recyclable or Garbage: Getting Rid of Wood Scraps”) gives some of the sites with local recycling center searches. This is a good place to start your search. However, you might need to contact the center itself in order to check on policies and restrictions pertaining to the type of wood you have.

How About Old Pieces Of Furniture?

This picture shows old furniture
Old Furniture

You can take old furniture to the local recycling center, as well. However, you might need to pay a small fee to dispose of these items.

Another option is to refinish old furniture and reuse it. You can strip off the old finish, sand out the scratches (unless you want them as “distress marks“), and then put on a finish to match the rest of your furniture.

Also, you can sell old furniture. Actually, there are many ways to do this. One is to use Craig’s list, or something similar. Often, you can arrange to have the buyer pick up the item and remove it.

What Do You Mean By Recycled, Upcycled, and Repurposed?

The actual meanings are not too clear. Many people use these words in different ways. There is some debate as to the exact meanings. However, some of the more common meanings are listed below:

Recycled – A material is recycled if it is only waste with no value and you turn it into some other, useful, thing. In the context of wood, this can be something like turning waste lumber into mulch for gardens, sawdust for bedding, or briquettes for fuel.

Upcycled – A material is upcycled if it is reused. An example of this could be wood scraps glued together to make a table.

Repurposed – A material is repurposed if it is refinished or restored. In an example with wood, you could strip off the finish, apply a new finish, and make a new product similar to the original one.

source showing multiple interpretations

These are some interpretations and there are also many other ways to define these terms.

Is Wood Recyclable or Garbage Conclusion

So, it does seem that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” That is, it is possible to recycle “junk” wood or wood “waste” into valuable and useful items. In some cases, you can actually make money by recycling items. For example, you can make money by collecting and reselling wooden pallets.

There are no “hard and fast” rules when you consider the question: Is wood recyclable or garbage? However, wood is not really considered to be garbage unless we can’t use or keep it. In that case, there are many alternatives including recycling centers and using the wood in a new project.

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Why is reclaimed wood so expensive?

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