Recycling construction materials

Recycling wood from construction projects


Most types of timber can be recycled. Waste wood can come in a variety of forms from medium density fibreboard (MDF) to tree branches.

The main causes of wood waste are:

  • pallets
  • crates
  • beams
  • window and doorframes
  • doors
  • floorboards
  • shuttering
  • fencing
  • panels, such as chipboard

Recycling options for wood

The categories of wood which can be recycled are:

  • manufacturing wood wastes
  • reclaimable and recyclable wood materials - from demolition and construction, including pallets, the wood is chipped for other uses, excluding architectural salvage
  • non-reclaimable and non-recyclable wood wastes - eg old fencing, laminated floor coverings and rotten windows and doors

However, there are some limitations to recycling wood, including:

  • limited waste management options and facilities on site
  • unknown levels of contamination
  • low profitability
  • limited marketplace - there are no real markets for reclaimed laminated wooden flooring as it often contains adhesives, plastics, mixed species of timber and surface finishes
  • practical difficulties in recycling wood - eg a skip of chipboard is hard to recycle due to the quantity of glue
  • local government policies

Making changes to your site operations

You can make simple yet effective changes to your site's operations to allow more wood to be recycled by:

  • allowing time for waste management planning
  • providing staff with training in waste reduction and health and safety
  • selecting a secure storage area to protect materials from accidental and weather damage
  • separating wood waste to avoid contamination
  • arranging transport for collection of waste

Potential end uses for reclaimed wood

Reclaimed wood can be used in applications and materials including:

  • chipboard, oriented strand board and fibreboard manufacture
  • bedding products for animals
  • play surfaces and pathways
  • remanufactured products - eg fibre composites
  • architectural components
  • landscaping
  • commercial products - eg logs, fuel chips
  • liquid fuel (ethanol and methanol)
  • biofuel for combined heat and power plant

See carpentry - how to cut waste and costs.

You can find licensed waste sites to recycle or dispose of wood.