Plywood is made from thin, compressed layers of veneer that are bonded together with an adhesive, which makes this a tricky question to answer because there are a couple of factors to consider.

  1. Where is the wood sourced?
  2. What type of adhesives are used?

Wood

Deforestation is a concern when buying any wood that is not Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC). 

Despite efforts from governments to crack down on deforestation practices, illegal and damaging logging operations still exist.

Always try to buy wood that is FSC certified, ensuring ethical and sustainable logging and manufacturing practices are in place.

Adhesives

Part of the manufacturing process is gluing pieces of veneer together (resulting in plywood). The adhesives (including chemicals such as formaldehyde) used cause air pollutants.

Fortunately, there are more environmentally friendly options available for adhesives that do not contain formaldehyde and have lower VOC emissions, such as a soy-based adhesive.

Is plywood biodegradable?

No. Plywood made with traditional, formaldehyde adhesive should not be left on the earth to biodegrade. Chemical-laden adhesives have a high VOC emission that can increase upon degradation. 

Honestly, I couldn’t find any information claiming that soy-based, non-formaldehyde adhesives were biodegradable either.

To be on the safe side, I would say that no type of plywood is biodegradable. 

Is plywood bad for the environment?

It depends on where the wood is sourced and what type of adhesive is used. FSC sourced wood and low VOC emission adhesive is better for the environment than wood sourced from non-regulated logging companies and adhesives containing formaldehyde.

Is There A Sustainable plywood alternative?

Plywood can be made more sustainable by using:

  1. Wood sourced from FSC certified manufacturers
  2. Adhesives with a low VOC that do not contain formaldehyde
  3. Locally sourced wood from a sustainably managed forest

Keeping these three criteria in mind will help ensure you are picking the most eco plywood possible for your project.

Is plywood recyclable?

Yes, plywood is recyclable but it depends on your municipality. You may be able to put plywood in your green bin, but just double check to be sure (google your municipality’s recycling guidelines).

To avoid waste, try reusing your old plywood for something else. You could also try donating it to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or another charitable cause.

Do you have any more plywood questions? What are you making that requires the use of plywood? Were you able to find eco-friendly options in your area? Let me know in the comments below.

Cheers, and have an awesome day!

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