Last Modified: April 2, 2024

Tree Shredding

Discover Efficient Solutions For Green Waste

Tree surgeons cutting down a large tree

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist


As homeowners and gardeners, we are always looking for ways to improve our outdoors and deal with our waste in ever more eco-friendly ways. Some common methods of achieving this are the composting food scraps and then re-use garden waste.

In this article, we examine the benefits of tree shredding for the purpose of wood composting, the different types of equipment that you can use, and offer some pointers on how to choose the right kind of shredder for your needs. We also look at the importance of proper tree waste management, because there are certain materials that are best not to be used around your garden. Lastly, we share some practical tips for dealing with tree trunks and compost. Let's shred!

Also, don't miss out on our 'Pebble Picker' tool in the sidebar or menu. With it you can choose and browse every decorative aggregate by colour and type with ease.

Shredded wood chips close up

Key Takeaways

  • Types: Understand the different types of garden shredders available
  • Benefits: From reducing landfill and improving soil health, to saving on fertilisers and disposal costs.
  • Factors: Determining the right type involves many factors, including assessing potential waste volume and shredder costs.
  • Preparations: Processing your woody waste and creating successful compost with best practice.
Commercial shredder chipping wood into a truck

What is Wood Chipping?

Wood chipping refers to the process of cutting and shredding wood into small chips, which are then used as decorative aggregates for varying purposes. The process of wood chipping uses a machine called a wood chipper and contributes to environmental sustainability and various applications. Garden shredders are a smaller version of a wood chipper but can generate similar types of aggregates, depending on the size and power of the machine.

Understanding Garden Shredders

Tree shredding is a way of enabling us to reduce the volume and bulk of woody waste such as branches, dry twigs, leaves, and woody clippings. By using garden shredders, which use blades and chains on a rotary shaft to pulverise organic waste into smaller pieces, you can also turn this woody waste into great mulch or compost. The shredder will increase the speed of composting by providing a larger surface area for microbes to do their magic.

There are several types of domestic shredders available with each one designed for different levels of garden waste needs. Some of the most common types include:

  • Impact shredders
  • Roller shredders
  • Electric-powered
  • Petrol-powered
Man using a garden shredder

Garden Shredder Pros & Cons

The sections below, the various shredder types and their features. The goal is to provide you with enough information to be able to make an informed decision about the right type of shredder for your garden waste requirements.







  • Heavy duty
  • Shreds bulk waste
  • Expensive
  • More easily blocked
  • Heavy
  • Budget Options
  • Lightweight
  • Don't block as easily
  • Noisy

Impact Shredders: Light Garden Waste

Impact shredders, often referred to as rapid shredders, are a cost-effective and efficient solution for garden waste management. They are a bit more noisy, so you'll need your ear defenders. They are equipped with a blade mechanism that finely slices garden material and are generally less likely to block. One example is a shredder with a motor power of 3000W that can accommodate diameters up to 45mm.

Impact shredders are best suited for regular garden waste, such as lighter green material and leaves, rather than larger branches or chunks of wood. Due to this, they are typically lighter than roller models. When purchasing an impact shredder, it's beneficial to opt for a model with multiple blades for increased durability and a regular-shaped hopper for easier and quicker feeding of small quantities of material into the shredder.

Man wearing goggles and ear protection using a garden shredder

Roller Shredders: Larger Branches & Volumes

Commonly known as quiet shredders, roller shredders use a ridged roller to crush and cut garden debris, drawing the shredded material down through the machine, making it easy to shred a large amount of waste. However, these machines have a tendency to get blocked by greener, more fibrous material and generally come with a higher price tag.

If you're considering a roller shredder, ensure that it's easily movable as they can be quite heavy. Another aspect to check on is whether the gap is adjustable between steel blade of the roller and the plate. An inability to adjust this setting can lead to less effective shredding at certain gauges.

Garden shredder with a plunger style shoot. Jpg

Electric Shredders: Ease of Use

Electric shredders are the most convenient and easy option available. They are less noisy than petrol motors making them more popular for non-professional use. When choosing an electric shredder, it’s essential to look for safety features such as a safety switch, emergency stop, and protective guards.

Petrol Shredders: Power & Versatility

As anticipated, petrol shredders are designed to handle larger volumes of waste and other materials in general. They usually come on large wheels and are generally more expensive, making them particularly useful in larger gardens or scenarios where there is a high level of waste to process, as well as for commercial use. They are also not limited by the location of electricity connection points.

They are also designed for user safety, so it's good to also check for emergency stop buttons and protective guards. When choosing, it's important to consider its fuel efficiency and maintenance requirements, as well as the size it can handle.

Commercial tree shredder parked outside a house

Benefits of Tree Waste Management

With proper garden waste management, which includes shredding leaves and grass cuttings, the benefits for our garden are only exceeded by how good they are for the environment and our wallets. Shredding and composting garden waste helps the environment and saves money. Let's cover the environmental and economic benefits in more detail, next!


By processing green waste into mulch and compost, we can reduce the amount of organic material we send to landfill, minimising our environmental impact. Using a compost bin to speed up the breakdown of garden waste is also good practice.

Using compost as a long lasting mulch also offers several benefits:

  • Provides sustained release of nutrients to plants
  • Enriches the soil and improves its structure
  • Helps retain soil moisture reducing the need for frequent watering
  • Suppresses weed growth
  • Reduces the need for expensive fertilisers and herbicides

Processing and utilising your own tree waste is a way to foster healthy trees and a more sustainable future.

Sun shining through a pine forest


There are many ways that reusing your own waste from the garden can provide economic benefits. By deploying composted tree waste, you can save money on fertilisers and weed control, as well as the cost of green waste disposal.

At the end of the day, what do you need to weigh up is how much a shredder will cost to purchase and run versus what the average costs to deal with your garden waste will be over the course of the next 5 to 10 years. Also, if you intend to mulch your garden, then you can consider the cost of the commercial mulch you will be able to replace with your own, processed organic matter.

Close up of wooden chippings used as garden mulch. Jpg

How to Choose the Right Garden Shredder

The next sections will cover the important factors to consider when choosing the best compost shredder for your needs, including:

  • Assessing your tree waste volume
  • Comparing shredder features
  • Safety aspects

Assessing Your Tree Waste Volume

Before selecting a shredder, it’s important to assess the volume of tree waste generated in your garden or property. This can be done by:

  • Visually estimating the volume of tree waste
  • Taking a representative sample and measuring its volume
  • Using a consignment note method for hazardous waste wood

Trying to estimate your tree waste volume, including tree trunks, can help you to determine the right shredder size and type. The volume of waste will vary seasonally, with more green waste generated during the spring and summer months and more woody waste in the autumn and winter months.

Debris in a garden after pruning a large tree

Taking A Representative Sample

Taking a representative sample and measuring its volume can be achieved by selecting a section of your garden, placing the waste in a container of known size, like a standard bulk bag, and then approximating the volume of the entire garden.

Keep in mind that a standard bulk bag of leaves will have a different volume compared to one full of branches, so it might be useful to follow this process for different types of waste separately, and then aggregate your results.

Consignment Note Method

Typically used in commercial or industrial settings, this method involves keeping a record of the hazardous waste wood that is being disposed of, including details such as the type of wood, the volume, and the disposal method. Reflecting on this can be helpful in estimating your waste volumes.

Once you have an idea of the volume of your prunings and cuttings, and also whether you have enough space to store compost and shredded waste, then you are in the best position to make an informed decision about the best shredder for you.

Piles of cut logs

Comparing Garden Shredder Features

When selecting a tree shredder, it’s essential to compare features such as:

  • Hopper design: A well-designed hopper is important for efficient feeding and avoiding mess.
  • Plunger shape: Round plunger vs flat.
  • Power source: Electric or petrol-powered, significantly influences its performance and suitability for different volumes of waste.
  • Noise level: A shredder with a lower noise level may be more suitable for residential use.
  • Weight: Lightweight shredders are more portable.
  • Storage Options: Compact or folding models may be more suitable for those with limited storage space.

Hopper Design

The hopper is where you feed in the waste, so a well-designed hopper can ensure a smooth, continuous feed of material into the shredder, reducing the likelihood of blockages and making the process quicker and more efficient.

1feeding green waste into a hopper design shredder. Jpg

Plunger Shape

A round plunger is more suitable for pushing down soft, flexible materials such as leaves and grass clippings, whereas a flat plunger is designed for pushing larger, harder materials such as branches and twigs.

1trees in a garden after pruning

Power Source

Electric or petrol-powered, it will significantly influence performance and suitability for different volumes of waste.

Weight & Storage Considerations

You'll need to ensure you have adequate space in the shed to store the shredder when it's not in use, taking into account its size and whether it can be disassembled or compacted for easier storage. The weight should also be considered to make sure you can manage moving the machines around.

Be sure to compare the above shredder features so you can identify the most suitable option for your needs. Try to find some independent reviews, from sites like, and keep in mind that each shredder has its own features and benefits, so it’s important to carefully how they meet your needs when making a decision.

Safety Considerations

Ensure that the shredder you choose is equipped with features such as a safety switch, emergency stop button, and protective guards for preventing accidents during operation. Additionally, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper operation and maintenance, as well wearing personal protective equipment, such as gloves, safety goggles, and sound-canceling earmuffs, when operating the shredder.

1protective safety equipment for heavy duty garden work. Jpg

Tree Shredding & Wood Composting Tips

The following sections will guide you on how to prepare for shredding garden waste, creating a balanced compost pile, and troubleshooting common problems you may experience when you compost tree waste.

Preparing Tree Waste for Shredding

Before shredding tree branches, it’s important to prepare the material properly. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. 1
    Collect the tree waste, including branches, twigs, and leaves.
  2. 2
    Move the waste to the most convenient place to run your shredder.
  3. 3
    Remove any non-organic materials, such as plastic or metal.
  4. 4
    For larger or bulky items that may not fit into the shredder, cut them down into smaller pieces for feeding into the shredder and avoid potential blockages.

Shredding Compost & Green Waste

Shredding green waste involves the use of a garden shredder to break down organic waste into smaller pieces, reducing waste volumes and accelerating the composting process. After shredding, add to your compost bin or pile.

Employing a garden shredder for composting not only accelerates the decomposition of organic matter but also saves space in your garden or compost bin.

1shredded wood and leaves in a pile

Creating a Balanced Compost Pile

To create a balanced compost pile, it’s important to mix shredded tree waste with other organic materials, ensuring the right ratio of carbon and nitrogen for optimal decomposition. The recommended carbon to nitrogen ratio for composting is between 25:1 and 30:1. Materials rich in carbon, such as twigs, wood cuttings, autumn leaves, and straw, can be combined with green materials like grass clippings and kitchen scraps to achieve this ratio.

Creating a balanced compost pile with the correct carbon and nitrogen ratio accelerates the decomposition process and yields nutrient-rich compost for your garden. This will not only improve soil health but also provide essential nutrients for your plants.

1composting area in a garden. Jpg

Troubleshooting Common Composting Issues

If you encounter issues with your compost pile, such as unpleasant odors, mold, or slow decomposition, adjustments to the compost pile’s moisture, aeration, and material composition may be necessary. Here are some steps you can take to address these issues:

  1. 1
    Adjust moisture: Add water if the pile is too dry, or remove excess water if it is too wet.
  2. 2
    Improve aeration: Turn the compost pile regularly to introduce oxygen and promote decomposition. You can also add materials such as straw or wood chips to improve airflow.
  3. 3
    Balance material composition: Ensure that the compost pile has a balanced mix of green materials (e.g., grass clippings and kitchen scraps) and brown materials (e.g., leaves and wood chips). This will help create the ideal conditions for decomposition.

By following these steps, you can troubleshoot common issues with your compost pile to ensure that your compost heap is functioning optimally.

1home composting bin full of green and brown waste. Jpg


In conclusion, tree shredding and composting provide a multitude of environmental and potential economic benefits, making them best practice for responsible waste management, especially where your garden generates significant volumes. With the practical tips and guidance shared in this article, including the different types of shredder features available, you are now well-equipped to choose the right shredder for your needs and efficiently manage your garden waste. Happy shredding!

1tree cutting road sign with tree surgeons in the background

Frequently Asked Questions

Disposing of Tree Branches in the UK

In the UK, there are several methods for tree branches disposal. One of the most environmentally friendly ways is to recycle them through composting or shredding, which can then be used as mulch for your garden. If the branches are too large to handle on your own, many local councils offer a green waste collection service, often for a small fee.

Alternatively, you can take them to a local recycling centre or hire a professional tree service. However, it's essential to check local regulations as some areas have restrictions on the disposal of certain types of garden waste. Lastly, if you have a large amount of tree waste, you might consider hiring a skip for disposal. Remember, it's important to dispose of tree branches responsibly to help maintain our environment.

What is a tree shredder called?

A tree shredder, also known as a wood chipper or chipper, is a machine used to reduce tree limbs and trunks into smaller wood chips. It is often portable, being mounted on wheels and towed behind a truck or van. Tree shredders are used in a variety of industries, from landscaping to forestry. They are also used in the production of wood-based products, such as mulch, animal bedding, and wood pellets. Tree shredders can be powered

Can you compost brambles?

Yes, you can compost brambles. However, due to their tough and woody nature, it's recommended to shred them first to speed up the composting process.

How much does it cost to get a wood chipper?

The cost of a wood chipper can range from £2,000 to over £9,000 ($2,500-10,000) depending on size and quality. A tree shredder will be a far more affordable alternative.

How to dispose of yew clippings?

Disposal of yew clippings should be done with caution due to their toxic nature. You can compost or store them separately, ensuring they are not accessible to pets or children, or take them to a local recycling center that accepts green waste.

How big of a tree can a chipper take?

Commercial-sized chippers can handle wood pieces of up to 4m (160") in diameter, while smaller shredders only allow wood of 5-7.5cm (2-3") diameter.

What to do with shredded garden waste?

Shredded garden waste can be used to create rich soil in a compost pile - simply mix it with other compostable ingredients and leaves, and wait for the composting process to work its magic!

There are many wonderful types of wood chippings products available for your play area or mulching needs. Check them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.