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Can I Compost Sawdust and wood shavings?

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sawdustYou might be able to compost sawdust and wood shavings – but it depends on what they’ve come from.

Real wood

It’s fine to compost sawdust and wood shavings from real untreated wood – pine, oak, ash, what-have-you – whether the dust/shavings are from working in a woodshop or cutting down trees in the great outdoors.

Dust or shavings from working with wood that has been treated – either with a chemical preservative or varnished/painted – is a trickier issue: some people would leave it out to avoid undesirable chemical contamination but other people would be fine with it on a small scale: it’s up to you.

Hardboard, plywood, particle board and MDF

Fibreboards are almost definitely a composting no-no.

Hardboard is sometimes just compressed wood fibres – that can be composted – but it sometimes includes resin as a binding agent. As it is hard to tell which is which, it’s probably best to leave it out.

Plywood, particle board and MDF always use synthetic binding agents so dust from those should definitely not be added to a compost heap.

Composting sawdust and wood shavings

Uncontaminated sawdust and wood shavings are useful for soaking up excess moisture in wet compost heaps and as a dry “brown“, are useful for balancing out “green”-heavy compost heaps that might otherwise go sludgy. Stir them into the existing compost so they get damp and to also stop them either forming a dense layer on top (which might reduce the air flow in the heap) or blowing around your garden. (If your heap has a tendency to be on the dry side, add extra moisture when you add sawdust, else it might dry up all together.)

Sawdust or wood shavings used as animal bedding can be added
as long as the animal is vegetarian – for example, rabbits or most chickens. Any poo, feathers or fur can be added to the heap along with the sawdust – it’ll all compost down nicely together. See our separate article on animal bedding for more information.


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