Is Wood Recyclable? What You Should Know (+5 Creative Ways)

Savanna Stanfield

Wood is such a popular material, it would be impossible to name all of the products made from it.

But the problem with wood is that trees have to be cut down in order to get it.

Considering all of the products that are made from wood, that’s a lot of trees.

Being able to recycle wood would be better for the environment because it would cause less deforestation.

But can you recycle wood?

Wood can’t be recycled through a curbside recycling program in the same way that some other materials can.

Recycling wood requires it to be taken to a certain facility, and not all types of wood can be recycled.

In this article, we’ll explain which types of wood can be recycled, and which ones can’t.

We’ll also explain how you can go about recycling or reusing wood.

Can You Put Wood Into the Recycling Bin?

You can not put wood into your curbside recycling bin. The reason is that most recycling facilities can’t process it.

Some cities do pick up wood such as limbs and other yard timber, but they don’t take them to the same facility that they take other recyclable materials.

Recycling facilities are basically designed to sort materials that have already been made into functional products (such as materials used for storage containers).

Examples of products that recycling facilities can process include:

Yes, wood is a functional product in itself, but the machinery used to recycle it can’t process solid wood in the same way that it can recycle other products.

How Come Wood Is Not Recyclable but Paper Is?

You may be thinking that paper and cardboard are made from wood pulp, so why can’t wood be recycled also?

The reason that wood isn’t recyclable but paper is, is because the wood pulp used to make paper has already been cleaned, shredded, and processed once.

Solid wood has not yet been shredded into wood pulp or wood chips. 

Recycling facilities don’t have the equipment necessary to do this and turn it into materials that can be used to make new products.

Depending on the type of wood, a lot of it also hasn’t been cleaned and can contaminate the recycling stream as a result.

Recycling facilities also don’t have the necessary equipment required to clean wood.

The machinery needed for recycling is expensive to purchase and maintain, and many recycling facilities can’t or don’t want to purchase special equipment just for wood.

Why Is Wood Not Recyclable? 

It’s not that wood isn’t recyclable at all, it’s just that it can’t be recycled through a curbside recycling program. 

Wood needs to be taken to a special wood recycling facility that has the equipment to clean and chip it or shred it down in order to be used again.

Then, the shredded wood can be sold to other companies who can turn it into other products.

Examples of products made from recycled wood include:

  • Paper
  • Landscaping mulch
  • Construction

Recycled wood can even be used as a fuel and energy source.

And, many cities do have a wood recycling facility. However, the type of wood that they recycle may vary at each location.

Is Any Type of Wood Recyclable?

Most of the wood that can be recycled and used for new products is known as “clean wood”. 

Clean wood is raw wood that has not been treated, painted, or stained and is free from preservatives and wood glue.

It is usually wood that has already been manufactured once for a specific use, such as the wood used for pallets or untreated lumber.

Usually, recycling facilities classify wood into categories such as clean, mixed, and dirty.

But wood actually has different grades:

  • Grade A is clean wood that usually comes from pallets. (3.1 million tons of wood pallets were recycled in 2018.)
  • Grade B wood is wood that comes from construction and demolition projects.
  • Grade C is wood that may include wood from the above categories as well as municipal wood such as limbs cut from trees.
  • Grade D is treated or painted wood such as wood used for home improvement projects including fencing, decks, siding, and shingles.

The grade of wood determines whether or not it can be recycled and if it is, what it is used for.

Grade A wood is the wood used to make mulch and animal bedding products because it doesn’t contain chemicals that could harm your plants or animals.

Grade B wood is used for making wood paneling or plywood.

Grades A and B are the only types of wood that are recycled.

Grade C wood is used for fuel. (2.8 million tons was combusted in 2018.)

Grade D wood usually can’t be recycled. It is treated as hazardous waste and has to be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility.

Are Any Wooden Products Recyclable?

Leftover wood from home improvement projects can be recycled as long as it isn’t treated, painted, or stained. 

Products made from wood, such as home decor and gardening items usually can’t be recycled because they are treated, painted, or have other materials mixed in with them.

Does Wood End up in Landfills?

A lot of wood does end up in landfills because people don’t know what they can recycle and how to recycle it.

In fact, there were 12.2 million tons of wood that went to landfills in 2018. 

That amount of wood made up 8.3 percent of the total waste that went to landfills that year. 

This is a huge problem because although wood is biodegradable, it doesn’t decompose as quickly when it is in a landfill.

When it does decompose in a landfill, it releases methane gas which is a major contributor to climate change.

And that’s just for clean, untreated wood.

Painted or treated wood can take even longer to biodegrade and can release harmful chemicals into the environment when it does.

How Do You Dispose of Wood Correctly?

There are three ways that you can dispose of wood.

Some ways are better than others, and not all wood can be disposed of a certain way.

1. Throw It Away

The easiest way to dispose of yard waste such as tree limbs is to just throw it away. Although it isn’t the best way, there isn’t a lot you can do with it anyway.

Yard waste is considered Grade C wood. It usually can’t be recycled, so this is the wood that is burned for fuel if it doesn’t go to landfill.

To find out exactly how to dispose of yard waste, you should contact your waste disposal service because it varies from place to place.

Alternatively, you can burn yard waste if your city allows burning. 

Burning isn’t the best option either due to health concerns from inhaling wood smoke. But burning small amounts of wood is better than sending more waste to a landfill.

We mentioned that wood that goes to a landfill can cause problems when it biodegrades, so burning yard waste is a logical option since this type of wood is burned for fuel anyway.

You can also burn untreated lumber, but it isn’t a good idea to burn treated or painted wood due to the chemicals that can be released.

2. Recycle It

If the wood is leftover from construction, you can dispose of it by taking it to a wood recycling facility.

But first, you have to sort the wood based on whether it is treated or untreated. Remember that only untreated, clean wood can be recycled.

It is recommended to bundle up any untreated wood before taking it to a wood recycling facility. There, they will turn the wood into wood chips to be used for other products.

If you have treated or painted wood, you can’t take it to a recycling facility.

You will need to contact your city or waste disposal service to see where to take it in your area.

3. Repurpose It

Instead of taking leftover construction lumber or wood pallets to a recycling facility or throwing them away, there are a lot of ways that you can reuse or repurpose them.

If it is possible to repurpose it, this is one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable options.

5 Creative Ways to Reuse Wood

1. Create A Unique Headboard

You can use leftover construction lumber to create a unique headboard by taking pieces of different lengths and widths, attaching them to each other, and fixing them to your wall.

Leave the wood as-is, or stain or paint it to match your furniture or decor.

2. Build Your Own Furniture

You can build almost any piece of furniture you can think of out of leftover wood.

Coffee tables, end tables, a kitchen island or dining table, and even an outdoor swing can all be made out of construction lumber or pallets.

Then, you can stain or paint the wood if you prefer.

3. Make Your Own Planter

There are many different ways that you make a planter out of wood, and there are so many styles you can make as well as personalization options.

If you choose to make a planter, it is best to use treated wood because it can withstand moisture better than untreated wood can.

4. Repurpose Pallets

Repurposing wood pallets has become one of the most popular home decor trends because there are so many things you can make.

You can use the pallets whole or break them down into smaller pieces.

We could easily write a whole article just on how to reuse wood pallets. But you can also watch this video that has 50 ideas for reusing them.

5. Use Your Imagination 

There are so many more ways that you can reuse wood that weren’t mentioned.

You can probably think of some really creative ideas for home decor, furniture, and more just by using your imagination.

Or, an internet search will give you plenty of ideas for reusing that weren’t mentioned in this list.

Can Wood Be Disposed of for Free?

Most landfills charge a flat rate – known as a tipping fee – for dropping off and disposing of waste. 

Usually, that fee is based on a certain weight, and both the rate and the amount of weight that the fee covers will vary based on where you live.

Some cities offer free days at the landfill. On those days, wood and other materials can be disposed of for free.

If there is a wood recycling facility in your area, most of the time recyclable wood products can be dropped off for free as well.

How Can I Recycle Wood Furniture?

Wood furniture is difficult to recycle because a lot of it is made from treated or painted wood and may be made from other materials as well.

If the furniture is in bad shape, you will need to take it to the landfill.

But if it is in good condition, you can donate it to a secondhand store.

Can I Throw Wood on My Compost?

You can throw wood on your compost as long as it is untreated or yard waste.

However, if it is yard waste, you should check it thoroughly for signs of disease or insect infestations as these can transfer to your compost.

If you do see signs of disease or insects, don’t compost it.

When composting large pieces of wood, it’s also a good idea to break or cut them into smaller pieces to speed up decomposition.

Conclusion 

Some types of wood can be recycled and others can’t.

But no matter what type of wood it is, you can’t put it in your recycling bin.

You can, however, take untreated wood or wood pallets to a wood recycling facility near you.

There are plenty of creative ways that you can reuse wood – both treated and untreated – as well.

Recycling and reusing wood are two of the most effective ways to prevent more trees from having to be cut down to make certain products.

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