Wood, in the correct context, is a very sustainable and incredible material. Over the course of many decades, we have learned to recycle this product over and over as a means to avoid cutting down additional trees and forests. The good news is that wood is a highly recycled material and a material that truly favours the recycling process. After all, any clean wood from consumer products can be recycled.
When clean untreated wood is sent to the recycling plant, it is commonly ground or shredded with the opportunity to be put back into the earth as agricultural products (wood chips, mulch etc.), compost products, or as a base for new raw wooden materials! The benefit of recycling wood is that recycled wood has a lower moisture content than raw wood, which allows for less waste and more bang for your buck! A win-win situation.
Another positive aspect of wood is that if it is not recycled, but rather left to biodegrade, this is done quite efficiently. Since natural wood is a component of the natural environment to begin with, it would only make sense that it can biodegrade quite easily. It is said that for a standard wooden chair, it would take about 13 years to decompose in landfill. Relatively speaking, this is pretty awesome, since your plastic bag, toothbrush, or anything plastic, will remain there virtually forever.
The more difficult side for recycling wood comes to when it is treated. Any wood that has been painted or treated will require much more attention when considering how it should be recycled. Chemical treatments and paint on wood are considered contaminants and may not always be accepted by recycling plants, thus destining them for landfill. The reason why recycling plants may refuse these types of wood is usually because painted or treated wood will most often contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, Teflon etc. which should not be released into the environment or in an atmosphere where they could be inhaled by individuals working around them.
So what exactly constitutes treated wood? The most common treated wood is pressure treated wood, that which is infused with specific chemicals and preservatives in order to protect is from decay (ie. to protect it from rot, insects etc.). This type of wood, as one may gather, is treated due to its outdoor purpose. The reason why it is termed “pressure-treated” is because air is removed from the wood itself in a depressurized holding tank, and is replaced with chemicals. The most common chemical used to treat pressurized wood used to be CCA (chromated copper arsenic), however, as one might already know, arsenic is a designated substance, and this type of treatment is no longer available for the most part. As a replacement, pressurized wood is now either treated with the safer alternatives of either ACQ (amine copper quaternary) or MPS (MicroPro® Sienna).
Although some treated woods are safer than others, the safest option for treated woods is unfortunately landfill. However, if you have treated wood sitting around, the most sustainable way to use it is, instead of destining it for landfill, is to try a DIY project to reuse or re-purpose your product. You could turn what might seem to be trash into a unique gadget, or store the wood to use on a future project as this could save you money down the road.
In today’s world, due to the environmental crisis we are facing, it is now very common and even highly sought after to create wooden products made from reclaimed or salvaged wood. By purchasing or creating products made from this type of wood, you are actually saving additional trees from being cut down, and truly recycling wood on your own. Reclaimed and salvaged wood products are always so interesting as they are always unique in nature and usually have a brilliant story behind them. For example, Architect’s Daughter Reclaimed Wood Compost Boxes are made from reclaimed wood from the city of Toronto and have very interesting stories behind them!
Overall, the good news about wood is that it is a biodegradable material. Although some woods may have the only option to be destined to landfill, the bright side of this end of the coin is that they will always biodegrade at an incomparable rate compared to plastics.