One man’s waste is… another man’s waste…

Filed in Blog by on October 4, 2014 19 Comments
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wood-pallet-7830-2347491The world’s gone mad I’m telling ya.

We run a wood burner at Chez Green and friendly local farmers invite us onto their land to clear away old trees.

We clear the land for free and in exchange get free heating – what’s not to love?

Our neighbours frequently donate bits of wood to us – it’s not uncommon to come home and find half an apple tree on the front drive or an old fence post on the grass.

(We even had a dismantled conservatory ‘gifted’ to us once, but that’s a story for another time).

We just need to make sure we don’t get a Steptoe and Son reputation 😉

Last weekend the doorbell rang.

One of our neighbours had four pallets for us.

His son works in the building trade and gets double length pallets which various building materials are delivered on.

Just in case you’re not a ‘real’ fire person; pallets are perfect, PERFECT for getting fires going – it’s some of the finest wood you can use…

Apparently these pallets can’t be returned to sender and, as they aren’t a standard size, they can’t be sold either – nobody wants them.

Their only option is to put them in a skip.

When the skip is full the company pay £300 to have it collected. Goodness knows what happens to the pallets after that…

This story reminds me of other things where the infastructure is no longer there for returns and reuse, such as builders bags and even glass bottles.

Fortunately we’ll be able to make great use of this waste and are really grateful for the pallets, but I’m wondering how many thousands are trashed.

What about you – what waste have you recently turned into a resource, been gifted or passed onto someone else?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (19)

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  1. There’s nothing wrong with being a Steptoe & Son. I know rag & bone men made a meagre living but it was part of a much more sensible recycling/waste disposal culture.

    Good on you for sourcing a great feedstock for your fire. I hope that when your wood fire has burnt out you collect the ash and use it on the garden as it makes an excellent fertiliser. Our ancestors did this because they knew how to eke every last utility out of everything.

    Here’s a few waste products I import into our home: leaves from little parks to make leaf mould; spent coffee grounds from local coffee shop for compost; fish heads, skins, bones etc from the fishmonger for stock (and then remnants go into the bokashi and ultimately onto the compost heap); clam shells if I have them in a restaurant for use as crocks in pots; old sash windows as lean-to cold frames; branches removed by tree surgeons for grow support & spoon carving… Once you think in terms of resources, you see value in so many things other people throw away.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Oh I Do use the ash! We have acid soil so the woodash really helps to break it down…
      And the nails in the pallets we burn then pull out at the end – we’ve been known to reuse them in building projects 😉

      I love your list of reuse – thanks so much for sharing!

      • Anthony Orenstein says:

        I agree that wood ash is excellent for gardens. I also put table scraps into the compost as all the nutrients go back to the soil that way. Nothing goes to waste. Junk lumber might contain treatment chemicals, however; and that might be toxic if burned.

  2. denise says:

    We reuse wood pallets to stack our wood upon and for kindling. Here’s a link for US residents on how to determine whether or not it was treated.

    The other day I was about a 1/4 mile from my house when I passed a tree company that had just cut down a tree. I asked them if the homeowner was keeping the wood — he wasn’t. The company delivered it to my front yard. Mind you, it made a mess of my lawn as the logs were 20″ x 8′ but it gives me 3/4 cord and the beginning of the pile for Winter 2016.

    The list would be way too long if I went into how much recycling/reusing/repurposing goes on around here. I was taught at a very young age and came from a farming family…say no more. 🙂

    • Mrs Green says:

      Hey Denise – thanks for sharing the link; I’ll check it out. What a fantastic find with the tree cutting – around here they’re savvy and don’t give it away, but sadly a lot of it gets chipped up rather than sold as firewood; I guess there’s more money to be made that way. Still, you’ll be warm for the next few years!

      • denise says:

        I think it’s a catch 22 sometimes. I’m thinking in this case it probably made them money. Depending on the company, the homeowner has to pay for it to be hauled away because the tree company has to pay to dispose of it…unless they keep it and split it themselves. They had chipped the brush and I don’t think they had the equipment to chip 2′ diam. logs. They were very accommodating when I asked. I thought we would have had to go get it. Win win for us all. It was a small company, though, if it were bigger, the chipper may have been put to use instead. Although, I think most companies around here would rather see it get used if someone asks about it. We’ve gotten quite a bit of wood from a tree guy that lets us know when he’s got some good wood to be had. The tricky part is timeframe. It usually has to be picked, and often times, bucked up, within a couple days.

  3. lizard100 says:

    We also have a wood burner and I’m constantly amazed by the stuff that could be reused and isn’t. It’s crazy b

    • Anthony Orenstein says:

      If old lumber is in good condition, it can be reused for certain home repairs. It can also be “recycled” by using it to make certain items such as sawhorses and props. Wood items that have undergone treatment procedures such as to prevent rot might release toxic substances if burned, but are still excellent for use in building projects.

      • Mrs Green says:

        Hi Anthony; good point about the toxic substances – we are very careful about what we throw on the woodburner and if in doubt the wood is repourposed elsewhere. Like you we have homemade sawhorses and even the wood shed itself has been created from wood that was donated to us but was too good to burn 😉

    • Mrs Green says:

      You can’t beat a woodburner – especially when it’s full of free wood!

      • Philippa says:

        Very topical. We were talking about wood burners just this weekend. Good to see some info about wood pallets – I was hearing about poisonous pressure treated pallets and how you shouldn’t burn those at the outing to the Science Museum’s Rubbish Project (with The Rubbish Diet) just a few weeks ago.

        Perhaps there is info available on exactly which pallets we shouldn’t burn in the UK?

      • Mrs Green says:

        I’ve browsed the internet and have not found anything conclusive. I think they can be treated with fungicides and pesticides but goodness knows how you find out…

  4. Florence says:

    A neighbour was clearing their garden shed this morning. They were going to throw away an old but working Kenwood Food Processor. I’m now going to throw away an old Kenwood food processor that needed replacing. The same neighbour was going to throw away an old but working Kenwood Juicer. Daughter is going to come and have a look at it as her hubby was thinking about buying one. Crosses eyes, looks down nose and wonders at people – freecycle was too much effort, easier to put working items that haven’t been used for a few years in the general rubbish bin.

    • Mrs Green says:

      It’s a shame you didn’t have a good experience with Freecycle and now feel it’s better to throw things away. We’ve had huge success putting things outside the driveway with a note on – perhaps that could work for you, Florence?

      • Philippa says:

        We now have small electrical street bins and there are ones at large supermarkets and some Councils will take them kerbside for recycling – BUT for things that DO still work some of the charities eg the British Heart Foundation will now take both big and small electrical items. They have to test them to make sure they are safe before they sell them. Always check what they want before you take to avoid disappointment.

        You do need to keep on checking what your Council offers kerbside and if you are lucky they will also have a very helpful and informative website. It is in their interests (and yours as a Council Tax payer) that you put as little as you can in the general rubbish!

      • Mrs Green says:

        What are these small electrical street bins you speak of 😀 They sound amazing and I want one… I don’t think I’ve ever come across one.
        Good to know about the BHF – thanks for the headsup.

  5. Anthony Orenstein says:

    I have an old but good kitchen range that I have performed both minor and major repairs on. It works wonderful. Too good to replace. It’s also a lot cheaper to fix something than to buy new.

  6. as i look around the house from my desk, i cannot see any item which has been purchased new..not by me..iand that includes phone-screen, PC and printer..f i am too lucky, or choose to upgrade our decor with quality gifts from neighbors etc. i then preferably put items on the grass curb; by next morning–they have been spirited away, there are unemployed people, veterans and creative folks watching wednesdays in town, as trash day is thursday (early)..
    twice a year, the rural area sports a “yard sale event” when news adverts tout location and items to be sold out of yards and, trucks and Amish wagons file in and out in a revolving frenzy to acquire goodies.
    i often sell or trade surplus-outgrown or home-made things next door..this year: rare squash for seeds, antique table for mismatched chairs..
    donating is too involved, time consuming and spread out here.
    ashes and horses’ manure make great root crops when spread out in thin layers in fall. plenty of that around here.

    • Mrs Green says:

      I love the sound of your huge yard sale and wish we had something like that here; it sounds like a wonderful celebration of repurposing and gifting.
      How fantastic about the printer and PC! While I have a gifted printer, I did have to buy a new PC 😉

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