Is wood recyclable?

Wood is one of the most widely used natural resources. Its use dates back to ancient times. However, it is not renewed at the same pace as it is consumed in modern society. To reduce the rate of deforestation we need to recycle more wood. 

In this article I will explain how wood can be recycled, I will go over the types of woods that are recyclable, how to dispose of non-recyclable wood and what the benefits of recycling wood can be. I will also discuss the negative effects of not recycling or reusing old wood on the environment.

Is wood recyclable? 

Yes, wood is recyclable. However, there are certain conditions for recycling wood. Wood sent to the recycling center cannot be processed with any chemicals such as creosote, paint, or stain. 

Painted wood or wood treated with any contaminant is unfit for recycling and needs to be disposed of by other means. Wood can be recycled but the products of wood recycling are different from wood. It cannot be repeatedly recycled like glass or aluminum.

One thing to keep in mind is that wood cannot be thrown into the common household recycling bin, rather it needs to be taken to local household waste recycling centers or specific wood recycling establishments. 

What type of wood is fit for recycling?

Any wood that is coming from timber directly can be sent for recycling, thus any branches from the backyard, any clean lumber, or tree stump directly qualify. Much of the wood that’s sent to the recycling centers are from wooden crates, yard waste, wood leftover from construction sites, etc. 

Any wood that has been chemically processed is unfit for recycling. This means any wood that has been painted, varnished, treated, glued to other material is non-recyclable. 

How is wood recycled? 

In the recycling center, wood is sorted and prepared for shredding. The sorted wood is placed in shredders which break down wood into varying sizes.

Wood is not recycled in the recycling center along with materials like paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass, or plastic. This is mainly because the recycling plants do not have the machinery to break wood down. Most wooden materials are not solely made of wood, they glue, metal, or plastic along with them. These, mainly metals, can damage the recycling machinery which is another reason these centers do not accept wood. 

There are wood recycling stations in many cities. Before you throw out your wooden wastes, make sure your city doesn’t have a wood recycling program. Some cities set up certain recycling posts where you can dispose of your wood. Some cities will expect you to drop your wood off at the recycling center, you may have to pay a small processing fee for this.   

What do we do with recycled wood? 

The shredders in the recycling plants break wood down into varying sizes. The larger pieces are separated and put back into circulation to make furnishings. The smaller pieces are either made into wood chips or wood pulp. 

There’s a list of things we can do with recycled wood,

  • Furnishings- used to make furniture, floorboards, wooden panels, etc.
  • Mulch- low-quality wood is made into mulch
  • Paper- smaller woods are made into pulp for paper
  • Biomass- irregular-sized woods are burned as fuel

How to dispose of non-recyclable woods: 

Non-recyclable woods are usually thrown out with the normal trash. Most of them end up in landfills. 

Not all wood can be given to a recycling center. As mentioned earlier in this article, any chemical treatment of the wood makes it unfit for recycling. Preservatives used in woods are generally necessary to make it last longer but it makes the wood unfit for recycling. 

The main reason processed wood is not recycled is that the chemicals used are usually very toxic. Recycling could cause the toxins to seep into the surroundings and damage anyone in that vicinity. Certain chemicals are not used to treat wood anymore due to their extremely toxic properties, however, old wood will still contain traces of them.

Since wood is turned to pulp during recycling these chemicals will mix along with the pulp and contaminate it, making it unfit for any downstream application. 

Even though wood can be thrown out with the trash, it is always recommended to find a new use for it. Old furniture can be sold or given away; they can even be taken apart to use the wood to make new furniture. 

Old wood may also be used to make a host of other items, reusing is always a better alternative than discarding. 

Wood is a great biofuel. Some cities take old, used wood to burn and generate energy for the city. Make sure you find out where your city stands on this issue before you throw your wood into the landfills. 

For wooden objects which have reached the end of their run, you can simply leave them by the trash bins, a waste collection unit will take care of it. However, this may not be true for your city. It’s recommended you call your local government and find out. 

In some cities, you are required to take your waste to the landfills yourself. In which case borrowing a pickup truck for a day might be the best idea. 

Benefits of recycling wood: 

There are many benefits to recycling wood. The top among them is preserving our forests and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Recycling is also more cost-effective than sourcing new wood, it prevents build-up waste in the landfills, and

Deforestation has caused lasting devastation to many of our forests and has aggravated global warming at an alarming rate. The number of trees that can be cut down in a week will take decades to regrow. 

Sometimes, the damage left behind on the land by the heavy machinery used to fell trees takes decades to recover, which means for decades no vegetation will grow on those patches of soil. 

These long-lastings damages have prompted us in recent years to be more mindful of wood waste. However, we as individuals are not the main culprit of wasting thousands of acres of forests. 

Construction and demolition companies produce the most amount of wood waste each year, with industries producing the second-highest amount. Households do produce wood waste but it’s minute compared to what these big sectors create. 

16 million tons of wood waste is generated each year, and the amount recycled is only 16%. To close this enormous gap in our waste production and recycling, we need to make some drastic changes. 

Wood thrown out into the landfills not only take up space, but landfills are also terrible for the environment as well. Landfills are notorious for taking up significant space and causing pollution. 

Thus removing most wood from the landfill would allow the space the wood would otherwise take up to be free for non-recyclable items. 

Wood is a precious resource that may be renewable in theory but is very hard to produce. Thus recycling attempts need to be routinely applied in all countries to minimize waste. 

Conclusion:

In this article I explained how wood can be recycled, I went over the types of woods that are recyclable, how to dispose of non-recyclable wood and what the benefits of recycling wood are. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is wood recyclable? 

1.Can you put wood in a recycle bin? 

Wood cannot be thrown into the common household recycling bins. Wood is recycled in specialized centers and thus should be thrown into the household waste recycling bins or taken to wood recycling centers. 

2. Can wood be recycled, yes or no? 

Yes. Wood can be recycled. However, to recycle wood, the wood needs to be fresh grade and untreated by any chemical contaminants. 

3. Can plywood be recycled? 

Yes. Given that the plywood is clean and untouched by chemical contaminants or paint.

4. How do you throw out wood? 

You have to first make sure it’s recyclable. If it is unfit for recycling, then there are several ways to dispose of wood, one is to throw it in the trash, however, if possible try to give it away or find some other way to use it before you throw it out. 

5. How do I recycle wood with nails?

The way to recycle wood with nails is to first make sure the wood is recycle-grade. Keep in mind that a nail can damage the machines or the worker picking up your wood. It can be extremely dangerous so the best option you have is to remove the nails before giving them for recycling.  

6. Can you recycle wooden furniture? 

Unfortunately, no you cannot recycle wooden furniture. Most centers will not take old furniture because the cost of recycling it outweighs the cost of throwing it in the garbage. Furniture usually has treated wood and lots of nails which makes them bad candidates for recycling. A better alternative would be to sell it or give it away or disassemble it yourself and make something else out of it. 

References:

  1. Recyclable Wood – What’s in our garbage – Garbage & recycling services – King County Solid Waste Division – King County. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://kingcounty.gov/depts/dnrp/solid-waste/garbage-recycling/whats-in-our-garbage/wood.aspx
  2. Recycling Tips for Better Results: What to Do with Wood | Recycle Ann Arbor. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.recycleannarbor.org/news/440-recycling-tips-for-better-results-what-to-do-with-wood
  3. Can You Put Wood in The Recycle Bin? (And 7 Ways to Dispose of) – Conserve Energy Future. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/can-you-put-wood-recycle-bin.php
  4. Is Wood Recyclable? (And 5 Ways to Reuse Old Wood) – Conserve Energy Future. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/is-wood-recyclable.php
  5. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://citizensustainable.com/wood-recyclable/
  6. Bennett, S. (2021). How to Recycle Wood – RecycleNation. Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://recyclenation.com/2014/04/recycle-wood/
  7. Wood Recycling Archives. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://recyclinginside.com/wood-recycling/
  8. How is Wood/Timber Recycled? – South Coast Skips. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://www.southcoastskips.co.uk/news/how-is-wood-timber-recycled/
  9. Can You Recycle Wood? If You Could, You Would, and You Should – Public Goods Blog. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://blog.publicgoods.com/can-you-recycle-wood/
  10. How Do I Recycle Wood?. (2021). Retrieved 30 November 2021, from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/recycle-wood-79134.html

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