Railroad ties have traditionally been made of creosote and pentachlorophenol treated wood. The chemicals are infused in the wood. They are pesticides and water-resistant chemicals. The newer the wood, the more chemicals are still present. Today, ties are being made from plastics as well. Disposing of used wooden railroad ties properly is important to the ecology. For people removing the railroad ties from landscaping, disposal is equally as important. In Missouri, railroad ties are a "regulated solid waste." Before throwing out of railroad ties, you should check with your state to find out approved methods of disposal.
Reuse and Disposal Methods
Recycle or reuse railroad ties for business or home landscaping projects. The ties make effective landscaping timbers, plant beds, walkways, driveways, fences, retaining walls and a variety of other creative uses. By reusing the wood in this manner they do not end up in landfills or incinerated.
Burn railroad ties as a fuel source. This can only be done under strict guidelines from the federal Air Pollution Control standards as of 2010. The railroad ties are burned in some high-temperature "combustion chambers" such as power plant boilers or kilns. The temperatures from the high-heat burn off the hazardous material.
Dispose of railroad ties in a landfill. Many states have regulations for the type of landfill that will accept railroad ties. Contact the landfill to verify whether it accepts the ties. Typically, this decision is determined by the solid waste management department either locally or within your state.
Never openly burn treated railroad ties or shred them into mulch. Toxic fumes will be released that are potentially harmful to your health.
Debbie McRill went from managing a Texas Department of Criminal Justice office to working for Compaq and Hewlett-Packard as a technical writer and project manager in 1997. Debbie has also owned her own businesses and understands both corporate and small business challenges. Her background includes Six Sigma training, and an Information Development career with journalism and creative writing as her passion.