Is Wood Recyclable?
Wood may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about recycling. Paper, glass, plastic–sure, but wood? You might be surprised to know that the EPA estimated in a 2018 study that roughly 4-5 tons of wood are recycled yearly! And that doesn’t include goods that are donated or sold between individual consumers. Sadly, even this large amount is still only a small percentage of what could actually be recycled. So what kind of wood can get recycled and how exactly does it work for everyday people?
Photo by Steven Kamenar
Can You Recycle Old Wood?
Yes! Unfortunately, wood is often overlooked as a recyclable material, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. What wood can you recycle? Untreated wood is the most recycle-friendly as it just needs to be examined and sorted before being milled or turned into pulp. Wood that has been painted or treated is more difficult to recycle and is best turned into a secondhand good.
How Do You Recycle Wood?
Most wood can be recycled locally either through a recycling center or a specialty scrap wood lumber yard–easily found with a quick search online. Both municipal and private recycling centers exist across the country. Some nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, may be open to taking quality, untreated wood that can easily be used as lumber for new buildings.
What Happens to Recycled Wood?
After being taken for recycling, wood is examined and sorted. First, the wood is checked for nails and other metal or plastic waste before being sorted with similar materials. Once the first steps have been completed, wood is either milled or turned into a pulp so that it can be used for new products.
Wood gets turned into almost everything you can imagine–from wood paneling, to pine-based cat litter, to tabletops–recycled wood can go a long way. You might even be able to find someone on Craigslist or other similar platforms who are looking for wood to be used for DIY projects. So, the next time you think of tossing that old coffee table or shelf, consider taking it to your local scrap lumber yard or donating it to a thrift shop that can give your wood products a second life!
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