It’s surprisingly difficult to get rid of wood, if you want to be responsible. Wood is heavy, bulky, and depending on what it was treated with, it’s sometimes toxic. How to dispose of wood depends on what kind of wood we’re talking about.
- Oil-Treated Wood
- Water-Treated Wood
- Wood chips, Sawdust, and Scraps
- Non-Treated Wood
Lots of outdoor wood, including the planks used in decks, docks, and fences, is treated with pesticides so it doesn’t rot. Older wood, usually wood from before 1995, even use oil- and tar-based treatments. Oil treatments are not stable and can soak into their surroundings, so if you have old treated wood, by now it is probably leaching toxins. Check it regularly for surface oil stains or other signs of leaching.
Be careful when handling old oil-treated wood. Double-bag it in plastic wrap or tarps, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it.
When it’s ready to move, take oil-treated wood to a hazardous waste depot, or a dump that accepts hazardous waste. It’s important not to take it to a burn site. Dumps use high-heat incinerators to get a full burn that destroys the toxins; if you burn it outside you’ll release these toxins into the air instead.
Water-treated wood uses pressure to bond the pesticide into the wood so that it does not leach as easily. This is much safer to handle than oil-treated wood, but just as dangerous to burn. Take it to a hazardous waste depot to make sure it stays safe.
Unless you cut the tree yourself or only use non-treated lumber, you won’t know from where wood chips and sawdust came, or how it was treated. To be on the safe side, do not burn or compost it, as that could release toxins, like arsenic, into the environment. Instead, bag it and take it to a depot.
If you know beyond a doubt that no treatment was used on the wood scraps, the most environmentally-friendly option is to compost them.
Non-treated wood has many disposal options. You can burn it, but that will release carbon dioxide and other pollutants, so make it count. If you choose to burn it, try using your wood for a cookout or in your fireplace to heat your home in order to save energy.
If you have too much lumber to burn at home, you can take it to a burn site. Although this releases pollutants, it’s a lot better than sticking it in a landfill for a thousand years. Keep your wood dry until you are ready to burn it; this will help it burn clean.
You could also compost the wood. Rent a chipper to render it down, then mix it in with other compost. With moisture, untreated wood rots rapidly.
However, the best option is to turn it over to recyclers or reclaimers. When possible, Gorilla Bins finds a new owner for all the junk we remove, and you can, too. There’s no use burning perfectly good lumber, when so many people would love to give it a new life!