Recycling Small Off-Cuts

Is there a better way to manage small wood scraps besides sending them to the landfill? January 26, 2008

I run an exotic lumber supply that sells rough material or milled to customer specs. We also have a division that builds custom cabs and furniture. That said, though we do our best to utilize drop offs in smaller trim pieces, etc., we still have, as all of you do, a lot of trash. We recycle our equipment shavings to horse farms. Yes, we only give them suitable shavings. Toxic wood shavings go in the trash.

Do you know what we could do with the toxic shavings - walnut, ipe, etc. - as well as the long pieces of drop off from milling the rough sawn material, too small to use? We don't charge the horse farms for the shavings or for separating the good from the bad, we're just glad to have the material recycled and not thrown in the dump. It would be nice to be able to sell the large quantity of raw wood strips, but not necessary. It seems a paper mill or someplace should be able to utilize this stuff.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor R:
I sell quite a few pen blanks each year to the guys making wood body ink pens. A pen blank is 3/4" square x 5 1/2" long. Common color or figure is 50 cents; high figure, burl, wild color, etc. can go as high as $4 each.

Don't you have a wood pellet manufacturer near you? I don't know if those guys buy your kind of waste or not.

From contributor S:
I have a pile of rippings from a moulding shop that a guy gave me. Since it all has a straight edge, my first thought was it would be simple to make heavy-duty laminated tops for work benches.

My plan is to check around and see if there are any worthwhile organizations - 4H, FFA, senior citizen centers, high school shop class, etc. - that would want the material for projects and donate it to them.

I also plan to make space in my showroom and help sell the finished goods - I would be helping people who need help, and drawing potential customers into my showroom.

From contributor D:
I spent years running a large shop and a major focus was what to do with the scrap. Chiefly we had rippings coming off of two rip saws, and made about 4 bundles a week, 4' in diameter, and up to 16' long.

Every now and then, someone would come by, take my idea of making kindling, and ask to have a couple of bundles delivered to his place. We'd gladly load all he wanted and deliver free, right away. We'd never see them again. It quickly becomes all handling, and there are all sorts of ways to make more money quicker than that.

Eventually, we set up a grinder and fed all scraps into this and blew the shredded wood in with the shavings. This somewhat alienated the horse people since they wanted fluffy shavings and not coarse, splintery little chunks of wood. Since they got the shavings at no charge, they still hauled it all away. In today's smaller shop, I hate to admit that we landfill everything. One can easily spend far more money dealing with the stuff and the hauling of it that you can by landfilling.

You might also try to locate a compost yard - a sort of clean landfill. They may take the exotic shavings free, but charge for rippings and shorts.

From contributor P:
Some years ago I read an article on making "logs" and pellets out of woodchips and sawdust. Then you could use them in woodstoves or sell them. It's always seemed to be a practical solution to me. I've yet to have a problem with excess sawdust and cutoffs, so I have yet to try this. Sawdust I spread out on the acre of ground we have or burn on the burn pile, and scraps I either use for hobby projects, give to woodworkers, or burn on that burn pile.

From contributor V:
Pelletizing/briquetting machines of European manufacture are available - hydraulic extrusions. They are (relatively) expensive and appear to require constant feeding and consistent chip load. They can make pellets or logs, and depending upon MC of the material, may require a wax type additive for binding. The "logs" can be sold and utilized for space heating.

The typical pattern holds here: European environmental tradition demands recycling, while US just throws it "away" - wherever that is, until the tipping point, where crisis ensues.