Is Wood Recyclable + 7 Creative Ways Reuse It

Planks of wood on shelves

There are many choices we can make to live a greener and more sustainable lifestyle, whether it’s learning how to compost at home or using different technologies to reduce waste. That said, one of the most important things we can do for our planet is to find ways of recycling and reusing commonly used items. A great example of this is wood.

Given that Americans use more than 100 million tons of wood each year, finding ways to dispose of it and reuse it is essential. That’s why we’re here to answer your questions about recycling wood debris, wood recycling centers, and more. The topics we’ll be covering include:

Before we get into how or where to recycle wood, we have to answer the most important questions of all. Is wood recyclable?


Can you recycle wood?

A large pile of partially cut tree logs

You cannot recycle wood debris through a curbside single-stream recycling system. Despite being a natural resource, wood is often painted or chemically treated and can contaminate the recycling stream as a result. That's why wood should be reused or turned into chips and composted instead.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily the case for all types of wood. There are certain types that can be brought to recycling plants, where they will be divided for processing and often put into a shredder. If you want to dispose of your wood properly, you’ll need to know what types can be recycled and which you’ll have to reuse or compost at home. 


Which wood is recyclable and which is not

A large pile featuring different types of broken up wood

Whether wood can be recycled at a wood recycling center largely comes down to if it has been treated or not. Most wood used in landscaping projects has been treated with creosote, oil-borne chemicals, or waterborne chemicals to protect it from fungal decay, moisture, and rot. These chemicals may extend the life span of the wood, but it makes the material itself too toxic to be recycled with other waste in a curbside recycling program.

Lumber treated with chemicals also can’t be composted safely for the same reason. The oil or waterborne chemicals could create an unhealthy pile and damage your plants. You’re probably wondering, is the same true for untreated wood? No. There are wood recycling centers that accept wood that’s unpainted and untreated.

Still unsure as to what types of wood you can recycle and compost safely? No problem. Here’s a quick guide that states everything plainly. Soon you’ll know what can be brought to recycling centers and which to save for home improvement projects.


Type of wood

Recyclable?

Compostable?

Real untreated timber

Woodchips

Plywood

𝗫

Painted wood

𝗫

𝗫

Fiberboard

𝗫

𝗫


Please note, in this case, recyclable means cannot be brought to a wood recycling facility. Things like painted wood, for example, are still recyclable in the sense that they can be used for crafts. 



How to recycle wood: 7 creative ways to recycle & reuse it

Throwing your wood products in a recycling bin may not be an option, but there are plenty of other ways to recycle and reuse wood waste. This includes donating, composting, and lots of fun and practical home improvement projects. If you’re not sure where to start, here are 7 ideas on how to recycle and reuse wood, including treated wood, wood pallets, shavings, and more.


1. Donate it

Sign on tall wooden post that says donate here

If you didn’t think you could donate wood, think again! With one donation, your broken wood furniture could be used to create a home. Wood is a valuable resource that can be used for all kinds of projects. If you’d like it to be used to build homes for those in need, consider donating your scrap lumber to your local Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity uses donated wood for large-scale construction projects, so you know your scraps are being put to good use. You can donate many different types of wood to Habitat for Humanity, though you should call ahead to double-check if they accept chemically treated wood.

Pro tip: Don’t live near a Habitat for Humanity? You may be able to donate your scrap lumber to your local high school woodshop. 


2. Add to compost

Food waste and plastic in a lomi electric composter

Need a way to dispose of untreated wood shavings? Simply add them to your compost pile! Shavings are carbon-rich materials that can help balance your compost if it becomes overwhelmed with nitrogen-rich material. Achieving a healthy balance between the two ensures that your compost is healthy and doesn’t get too dry or too moist.

If you don’t have the space for tumble composting or cold composting, there are plenty of alternative composting methods out there. You can even learn how to make compost at home if you have the right device. With Lomi, you can make nutrient-rich dirt within hours. This dirt can be made up of organic food waste and non-food items like plastic and shavings. But before putting anything non-food into your Lomi kitchen composter, you should take a moment to ensure that it’s a Lomi approved item.

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Pro tip: If you put a large amount of wood shavings into your compost pile, consider adding some nitrogen-rich materials like vegetable scraps and grass clippings to maintain a proper balance.


3. Use as plant holders

Plants in upcycled wooden boxes labeled storage

Old wood products like broken furniture can’t go in your curbside recycling bin, so why not convert them into something useful? Wood pallets and wood crates can be converted into plant holders, even if you’re a beginner with very little carpentry experience.

With crates, all you have to do is fill them with soil and add your plants. You can also paint the crates beforehand in your favorite colors. These plant holders can be practical and a great new piece of decor for your porch. Recycling wood has never been more fun!

Pro tip: If you have the right tools and some level of carpentry experience, you can also use treated or untreated lumber to create wooden plant stands!


4. Build a coat rack

Several coats hanging from nails on a diy coat rack

A fun and inventive use of untreated or treated wood is to create your own coat rack. There are a few different ways to create a DIY coat rack. The first is to take a plank, paint it, and then add hooks onto it for hanging coats and bags. If you’d like a more complex project, you can also build your own upright coat rack.

Pro tip: If you don’t want to spend money on hooks for your DIY coat rack, you can simply use nails. You may even be able to twist them into a hook shape using the right tools.


5. Turn into wood chips

A man with a big handful of wood chips

If you have the necessary equipment for grinding down clean wood scraps, you should absolutely do so. Chips and shavings are far easier to dispose of than larger pieces. Shavings can be added into an electric composter like Lomi, but this isn’t the only option available.

There are so many different uses for wood chips. They can be used as mulch and animal bedding. You can also lay them down outside to create a pathway or add them to your composting toilet to control odors.

Pro tip: If you plan on turning your wood into chips, make sure you use protective gear (including goggles to shield your eyes).



6. Repaint to upcycle

Wooden furniture that is being spray painted

If you’re not familiar, upcycling means reusing objects or materials to create a higher quality product. There are so many ways to do this with wooden scraps and wooden pallets. If the lumber looks rather old and unappealing, however, you may want to repaint it. Once the wood has been repainted, you can start to see its potential as a new piece of furniture or decor.

Broken furniture, for example, can be further broken down and rebuilt into something new. The list of DIY wood projects is endless. You could use your painted wood to build a coat rack, as mentioned above, a bench, shelving, a trendy blanket ladder, coasters, a magazine rack, children’s blocks, a display board, and so much more.

Pro tip: One of the best types of paint to use on wood is acrylic paint. It’s water-based and has very little odor!


7. Burn in your fireplace

A small black wood stove with a fire burning inside

An easy way to dispose of clean wood is to burn it in your fireplace or fire pit. Untreated scraps are a safe and convenient choice for your fires. They save you from having to buy firewood or cut down your own outdoors. That being said, you should never add pressure-treated wood to your fires, whether they’re indoors or outdoors. The wood could release toxic chemicals that can negatively impact your health.

Pro tip: If your pieces of lumber are too large, they may take a long time to burn in your fireplace or fire pit. You may want to take them outdoors and break them down with an ax to speed up the process.


Where to compost wood? 

A pile of cut up wood at a wood recycling center

You can compost wood in your backyard using a cold composting pile or a composting tumbler. You can also use an electric composter or a vermicomposter for indoor methods. If you have larger pieces of lumber and can’t break them down into shavings, you may need to take an alternate approach.

You can bring untreated wood to your local wood recycling center. It’s very likely that this lumber will end up being composted anyway, as they have the machines necessary to convert your scraps into shavings and sawdust. As for treated materials, you may need to contact your local landfill or a hazardous waste facility if you decide upcycling isn’t an option.


Seemingly minor actions like buying from green tech companies and recycling your waste can have a big impact. If you’re interested in recycling more commonly used items, we recommend checking out our other blogs. We have several helpful guides that cover whether or not pizza boxes, bubble wrap, or paper is recyclable.

For those more interested in composting, you should consider buying Lomi. It’s a fast and simple way of creating nutrient-rich dirt in your own home, whether you’re inserting wood chips, yard waste, food waste, or any other Lomi approved non-food item.


Written by: E Sawden