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Using a Chipper Shredder to Recycle Garden Waste

Updated on October 21, 2017
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Eugene is an avid gardener and has been passionate about growing things for nearly 40 years. He also has a keen interest in DIY.

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How Does a Chipper Work?

Garden chippers/shredders can be electric or gas(petrol) powered. Small electric chippers rely on a powerful electric motor, about 3 HP or just under 2.5kW to drive a strong metal cutting cog. This shears branches up to 1 1/2 inches or 40mm in diameter. The cutting gear is designed in such a way that the blade pulls branches into the machine. The result is a neat pile of chipped branches and just another way to recycle garden waste.

Disposing of Branches

Most gardeners will be aware of the benefits of using a compost bin or heap as a great way of disposing of grass cut from the lawn, leaves, kitchen waste and weeds. It reduces volume and recycles the waste into compost which is of great benefit as a soil conditioner and nutrient source. Branches can also be recycled into useful material using a small electric chipper.

What Are the Advantages of a Chipper?

Firstly it reduces the volume of waste in the garden. Bonfires were a great way of disposing of branches, but now in this environmentally conconscious world we live in, regulations often restrict burning of waste and the material must be disposed of somehow. Depending on where you live, it may be expensive to dispose of branches at a dump/recycling center and shredding, although tedious with a small electric machine (unlike a large petrol powered chipper) can turn branches into useful material.

What Can Chipped Branches Be Used For?

Chipped branches can be used

  • as a mulch on flower beds and just like bark mulch, the material is excellent at preventing weeds from emerging to the surface and preventing weed seeds which land on it from germinating. If you just pile up the material, it will also eventually decay
  • as a covering for natural paths through the garden. Weed growth through the material is minimal
  • as a fuel for a wood chip burner. You can possibly even add the chipped branches to the silo/hopper and burn them. However they should be thoroughly dried first plus consult the manufacturer to see whether it's ok to do this

Safety Tips When Using a Chipper

  • Wear Safety Gear Safety glasses and ear muffs and strong shoes/boots. It's debatable whether to use gloves. They do protect hands from being scuffed. However they could get caught in branches as they are pulled into the chipper.
  • Be Alert! Branches can thrash about when being chipped, so stay clear. Know where the stop button is on your shredder and be ready to press it at a moments notice if your hand gets caught by a branch. Never try to put your fingers into the chipper intake to remove material
  • Don't Use a Chipper When It's Raining Electrical appliances shouldn't be used in wet conditions
  • Position Your Chipper on Level Ground Don't use it on a slope where it could slide or topple
  • Work in Daylight Only Good lighting is essential when doing any work in the yard and garden.

Chipped branches
Chipped branches | Source
Chipped branches used for covering beds or as path covering
Chipped branches used for covering beds or as path covering | Source

© 2012 Eugene Brennan

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    • eugbug profile image
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      Eugene Brennan 3 years ago from Ireland

      Hi Victoria!

      Small chippers like this one have a power rating of about 2500 watt and can cut branches up to about 35mm (1 3/8 inch approx). They won't chip soft hedge clippings though.

      Unlike the large chippers used by tree surgeons, feeding it can be a bit tedious especially if branches are awkwardly shaped. (The entry slot on some of these machines is narrow to prevent your hand getting too far inside) When lopping branches, I usually leave about a foot of branch attached below where the branch forks out so that it can be pushed into the chipper.

      Domestic electric chippers like this one are usually rated so that they can run off a standard plug. If you are using it a long way from your house, invest in a heavy gage length of power flex to reduce the voltage drop (which will reduce the power available to the machine). Small gas powered chippers are also available but much more expensive.

      As far as I know, there are two technologies used in electric chippers. One system uses a heavy duty cutting cog which turns slowly and is good for cutting thick branches. The other type has a high speed cutting blade which gives better results with thin branches and leaves. The one I have is of the former type an as you can see from the photo, and gives quite good results with branches down to 1/4 inch. Soft flexible branches such as those on conifers don't chip so well unless they are really dry (which can take months).

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I loved your video! I should get one. It would help me dispose of my random leaves, plus save money on mulch! What kind of chipper/shredder would you recommend to do the job?