Waste wood

Use before incineration: this principle ensures the optimum use of the raw material wood. Waste wood can be used, for example, in the manufacture of particleboard and thus as a replacement for virgin wood. Wood furniture that is still suitable for use can be passed on to others or donated to charity shops.

Wood is a versatile material. Hence, waste wood varies widely. It ranges from natural wood from the forest to off-cuts and sanding dust from joineries (scrap wood), coated wood from buildings, furniture and packaging (waste wood), and problematic waste wood which is impregnated with wood protection agents. The processing of the waste wood depends on the category of wood involved.

Ecological assessment

The burning of waste wood in furnaces with inadequate exhaust air treatment can cause significant environmental impacts. The incineration of treated or coated waste wood can result in the production of pollutants like dioxins or release of heavy metals which should not be allowed to enter the atmosphere.

If waste wood is not contaminated with pollutants, it can be processed into derived timber products and hence replace virgin wood. Subsequent energy recovery also remains possible (cascade use).

In the case of wood furniture that is still suitable for use, the aim should be to extend the duration of the product for as long as possible.

Separate collection

Waste wood arising from the demolition of buildings must be collected separately or sorted retrospectively by construction companies (Cf. Ordinance on Waste, VVEA). This ensures that waste wood is disposed of in a suitable way. In accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste (OMW), only licensed waste disposal operations may process waste wood.

Licensed disposal operations in accordance with OMW:

Furniture of adequate quality that is no longer used or needed is accepted by second-hand shops, charity shops and flea-market dealers. It is often possible to return similar items of old furniture to retailers when purchasing new ones. Wood furniture items that are no longer used and other waste wood from households can be disposed of in communal bulky waste collections.


Whether waste wood can be processed into new products depends on the pollutant content of the source material. Particleboard manufacturers may only recycle natural wood or wood with a low pollutant content. Waste disposal operations which process waste wood for recycling are obliged to carry out quality control. Joineries can burn the wood they generate in their own waste wood furnaces provided it is neither pressure impregnated nor coated with organohalogen compounds. Only natural wood may be used in wood-burning stoves and in the open air. The incineration of treated or coated wood is prohibited.

Treated wood, for example from buildings, old furniture, crates and pallets, may be disposed of in waste wood furnaces or cement plants that are equipped with a dust filter. Problematic waste wood that has been treated with wood protection agents or coated with organohalogen compounds must be disposed of in waste incineration plants (WIP) or other suitable facilities. All furnaces are subject to the provisions of the Ordinance on Air Pollution Control (OAPC).

In accordance with the OMW, waste from treated or coated wood is classified as "other controlled waste". Problematic wood waste such as railroads ties or windows with lead-based paint is exempted and should be classified as "special waste". The control and monitoring of domestic waste disposal operations and transboundary movements ensures that waste wood is disposed of in an environmentally-sound way. Waste disposal operations in Switzerland require a licence from the responsible cantonal authority. Exports and imports require the authorisation of the FOEN. As part of the export application, the exporter must demonstrate, in particular, that the wood waste is of the required quality. Exports to countries that are not members of the OECD or EU are prohibited.


Financing is based on the polluter-pays principle. The price paid for waste wood depends on the degree of contamination and the quantity of the wood supplied to the waste disposal operation. Communal bulky waste collections are generally subject to a fee.

Further information

Last modification 05.07.2019

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