Wood Waste Management: How It Works

Whether it’s used scrap lumber or pallets, wood ends up in the waste stream for manufacturing plants more often than we like to think. In a world that only now starts to get concerned about recycling, wood waste management doesn’t always take central stage.

However, these are some of the facts that you need to know to become more aware of the wood waste you’re probably participating in. During a lifetime, the average American produces 600 times his own weight in trash. That’s enough waste to fill several garbage trucks.

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It’s a staggering statistic that might not concern us as much if we didn’t have to take the environment into consideration. Earth’s natural resources are rather limited. Whether we talk about raw materials or the fossil fuels we use, we need to realize that we can’t replenish them once they’re depleted. Therefore, it makes sense that we should use our resources as wisely as possible.

Resource & Waste Management

The easiest way to sensibly use Earth’s resources is to simply use fewer things. For example, we could do with less food packaging and reuse things that we would otherwise throw away. As with any other form of recycling, wood waste management makes sure that a lot of the material doesn’t end up in landfills, but at a recycling plant.

Most of the things we throw away are recyclable. It means that instead of throwing them away, we can turn them into new products. However, some are much easier to recycle than others. Wood recycling is among the less popular opportunities of leading a greener life, but it offers a cost-effective and efficient solution for all wood waste.

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Wood is a traditional, sustainable material that people have been learning to reuse for as long as human history. What can we turn waste wood into? Garden decking, recycled wooden flooring, and other new wooden products – all of these make sure that we don’t need as much virgin wood.

Moreover, old wooden railroad sleepers (replaced today by concrete) can be used as building timbers for gardens and homes. Recycle plants also shred wood waste, stuck it together with adhesives, and make laminates and other composite woods. Last but not least, recycled wood can be burned as a fuel or composted.

Wood Recycling vs Paper Recycling

Recycling paper usually takes place in a paper mill or makes use of composting. It’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of preparation for the recycling process. Many factors are involved in wood recycling, on the other hand. They affect the chosen recycling method for a particular wood waste item.

For example, a broken wooden pallet is recycled differently than a used wooden pallet that is still in working condition. At the same time, a broken pallet that has been chemically treated (with Creosote or something else) is recycled differently than a pallet of non-treated wood. These differences are partly the reason why wood waste management has yet to bloom in the recycling industry.

Recycling Wooden Furniture

Recycled wood waste can be reused to design creative eco-friendly furniture. It comes in various ways, including organic, all natural, and sustainably produced furniture. Eco-friendly furniture is a great idea that contributes to a healthy home environment, as well as a green living.

Crate and Barrel furniture, for example, designs recycled wooden furniture for home and garden while acting positively to conserve our forests and protect our limited timber resources.

Pallet Recycling

Do you have old or damaged pallets that you no longer use? Recycle! This way, you help prevent unnecessary landfill, as well as make sure that less trees are chopped down for new pallets. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies that provide customers pallet recycling absolutely free, such as Nelson Company.

At the same time, there’s a growing trend of reusing pallets for furniture making. Pinterest is full with boards suggesting DIY projects with repurposed pallets.

Wood Waste Management: Useful Tips

According to a 2003 report by the EPA, U.S. produces more than 6 million tons of wood waste annually. Without proper wood waste management, that is a lot of trees no longer in the forest.

  • Careful deconstruction can help you increase your wood-based recycled materials. The term refers to the way you dismantle wood-based structures. Do not demolish the structure recklessly. Whether it is a shed, barn, or cabin, use hammers, crow bars, and saws to gently deconstruct them. This way, the lumber can be easily repurposed.
  • Watch out for contaminants. Anything other than pure wood affects the recycling process for a wood waste item. Here are some contaminants that you should look out for before considering wood recycling: Nails and metal fixings, paint, bindings and glues, surface coatings (such as polyurethane), glass, plastics, and grit.
  • Use a wood-chipper if you prefer to mulch your wood. Even though there are recycling companies that can do that for you, you can also do it yourself. This is especially profitable landscaping businesses.
  • You can also sell mulch to local hardware companies. This way, not only will you be reducing environmental waste, but you’re also beautifying someone else’s home.
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Uses for Recycled Wood

Ideally, recycling companies should collect wood waste items, then reuse or repurpose them. However, this is not always an option. In other cases, companies burn wood waste as biofuel, or recycle it to make various items:

Cat litter and animal bedding – Converting recycled wood in animal bedding used in stables and cat litter boxes is the one most common reuses of wood waste.

Chipboard and fiberboard – Some high-quality wood waste can be turned into particle board and other types of engineered wood.

Pathways and coverings – Next time you walk your dog in the park, look at the trail you’re walking on. If it is paved with small wooden chips, it might be recycled wood.

Mulches and compost – As we’ve already pointed out, non-treated wood that needs recycling is extremely useful in the landscaping market.


Nothing is stopping you from becoming more environmentally friendly through wood waste management. Most recycling companies commonly accept materials such as wood pallets, plywood, particle board, and wafer-board. Just make sure to contact them ahead of time to make sure they can remove the waste you have on site.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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