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How to Recycle Wood Shavings

Updated April 17, 2017

Wood shavings created as a side product in workshops and at sawmills can be recycled in many different ways. Their usefulness for other purposes make them an ideal recycling material so, in addition to keeping them out of landfills, they can also save you money in other areas. In fact, they are so useful, that it is even possible to make money out of them, selling them for other people to use as fuel or animal bedding.

Mulch your pathways with wood chips or wood shavings. They will turn a lovely silver-grey colour over time. They take a long time to decompose, however, so mix in some shredded bark or other organic mulching material when putting them around plants as the micro-organisms involved in the decomposition process might use nutrients that the plants would otherwise have used. A little added organic mulching material will prevent this.

Use wood shavings as bedding for your animals. They are great for bedding as they stay fluffy for longer than some other materials and retard bacterial growth, therefore protecting your animals from bacteria-related health problems. Fruit woods and low aromatic woods like aspen and poplar are good to use as bedding. Cedar emits aromatic hydrocarbons that aggravate respiratory problems in small animals, so should not be used. Pine also has strong odour (but is fine to use if it is kiln dried). Walnut wood is poisonous to horses and should not be used for bedding.

Pack wood shavings around objects for protection when boxing them up for mailing or moving. If you have a free source of wood shavings this will save you money on synthetic packaging materials like bubble-wrap and styrofoam peanuts. Less use of synthetic materials is also environmentally sound.

Burn wood shavings as a starter fuel in wood burners or open fireplaces. They will catch light easily with some paper lit beneath them and will help keep the fire alight to get the bigger wood pieces burning.

Compost your wood shavings. You need carbon-rich materials as well as nitrogen-rich materials in your composter. Green waste like vegetable scraps and garden clippings are nitrogen-rich. Brown waste, which is dry woody materials like wood shavings, straw or dried leaves, is carbon-rich. The ideal ratio for composting is two parts green waste to one part brown waste.

Tip

Wood shavings are sold for animal bedding purposes, so if you produce a lot of them, you might consider making some money out of this as a side business.

Warning

Cedar and walnut woods create phytotoxic chemicals. They should not be used for compost or mulch as the phytotoxic chemicals kill plants. Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treated wood should not be used for any of the purposes mentioned above. CCA is a wood preservative containing chromium, copper and arsenic that is gradually being phased out due to government guidelines.

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About the Author

Steve Sparkes started writing professionally in 1982. He was a journalist and photographer for "The New York Waste" magazine for a decade. Sparkes has a diploma of art and design and a Bachelor of Arts in history of art from the South-East Essex School of Art. He also has a Master of Arts in photography from the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts.