What to Do with Used Charcoal: Tips for Disposal and Recycling

Grilled and roasted foods are a must-have menu in some homes, while some others may prefer taking them on special occasions or seasons – like the summer. 

Whatever the case is with you, there is a common concern of everyone who grills or roasts food: how to dispose of Charcoal. Learning how to dispose of Charcoal is essential because you do not want to risk having a fire outbreak from improperly disposed of leftover Charcoal.

This post will discuss the proper ways of disposing of used and unused Charcoal. Read on to find out.

Safety Precautions Before Disposing Of Charcoal

Charcoal Briquettes
Royal Oak Premium Hardwood Charcoal Briquettes

Wood-based Charcoal is not toxic, but it can cause a fire hazard when you do not dispose of it properly. Manufactured Charcoal briquettes, on the other hand, contain some chemical additives and flammable agents that may not be bio-friendly.

Therefore, it is essential to ensure some safety precautions, most significantly, to avoid fire outbreaks and ensure eco-friendly disposal.

The safety precaution in disposing of Charcoal begins with letting it cool off completely.

Leave ashes from natural Charcoal for about 48 hours after use, or pour water onto them and stir thoroughly to speed up the cooling process. Also, soak manufactured briquettes in water for 20 minutes to 1 hour to cool off completely.

Generally, it is best practice to let Charcoal sit a day or two before packing it up to avoid burning bags or other materials.

Ways To Dispose Of Used Charcoal

You can safely dispose of used Charcoal in the following ways:

Add To Compost


One of the best ways to dispose of natural Charcoal is by adding it to your compost. It is a valuable addition to the compost heap; you can apply it to the fallow ground.

You can also compost Charcoal lumps that did not burn, but you should not add large pieces at once. 

Natural wood ash can be a natural source of potassium and trace elements. It has a liming effect and can help to reduce excess acid in soils, though the level of nutrients depends on the age of the wood burnt – ashes from young wood Charcoal are more nutritious, but those from large branches are not bad too.

However, you should add ashes to compost only in small amounts to avoid raising soil alkalinity, and you should never compost manufactured Charcoal as they are unsafe for plants.

Check here for more information on how to compost wood ashes.

Use As Fertilizer

Natural wood Charcoal is useful as soil fertilizer, and taking it to your garden is an excellent way to dispose of it. It is a perfect organic fertilizer and may be better than other organic materials because it is stable and will not decompose to carbon dioxide.

Charcoal is also porous and can stay in the soil for several years after it is applied. You can apply both ashes and Charcoal lumps as fertilizers directly, but you may need to break larger pieces to make them more effective.

Here is how to use Charcoal as fertilizer. 

  • Break down large pieces of Charcoal with a hammer.
  • Crush and grind the broken pieces into powder with a rolling pin. A mixture of Charcoal powder and small lumps is best for fertilizer.
  • Mix the powder with small lumps you did not crush totally.
  • Spread the mixture over the soil you want to fertilize, ensuring a depth of about ¼ inch.
  • Work on the ground with a rake to mix the Charcoal with the soil.

It is best to apply the Charcoal to your garden before plantation. However, you must work more carefully if you’ve already planted your vegetables or crops.

Thrash It

You can thrash used Charcoal like other household waste, especially if it is additive-free – containing no chemicals. But, it is not advisable to pour Charcoal or ashes directly into the garbage; it is best practice to follow the step-by-step process below instead:

First, you want to ensure your Charcoal is cooled by leaving it for hours or pouring water or sand on it. Collect the Charcoal when it cools off with a scoop or shovel, then send it into a disposable bag or container.

Seal the bag before sending it to your garbage for your trash collectors to pick it up.

Take It To A Waste Facility

You can also dispose of your charcoal waste at a waste facility near you, and this method is safe for both organic and manufactured Charcoal.

Many waste facilities will take your charcoal waste, but you need to learn about their guidelines and terms of operation. You should also properly prepare the Charcoal for disposal.

The preparation process includes leaving the Charcoal to cool off as required, then collecting it together in an aluminum foil, disposable bag, or container.

Locate any waste facility close to you to dispose of your Charcoal. You may also consider hazardous waste centers, but it is not compulsory, especially for organic Charcoal. You can find specific hazardous waste handlers at RCRAInfo Web or search the internet for waste facilities near me.

Store And Reuse Charcoal

Charcoal is reusable, and it may be a better option to reuse it than to get rid of it. Reusing Charcoal helps you save money and is more eco-friendly.

Preparing your Charcoal for reuse begins with cooling it off with water or sand instead of leaving it to burn out by itself. Next, run a rake through it to separate the Charcoal remains from ashes. You may want to leave it to dry if you add water to cool it off. 

Collect the big Charcoal chunks together to add some more Charcoal later for reuse and dispose of the leftover ashes. Ideally, you can mix old and new Charcoal in equal quantities for cooking.

Ways To Dispose Of Unused Charcoal

BBQ briquettes

It is essential to dispose of unused Charcoal properly because it will be a waste of resources if you don’t, and guess what? It is easier.

Throwing away unused Charcoal should be your last option, even if it is not burning. Here are the top options to consider in disposing of unused Charcoal:

Donate It

Giving to the community is always a good practice, and your unused Charcoal is an item of donation that can make life better for others. 

You can begin by asking your friends, neighbors, and family whether they need it or know someone who may need it. 

Alternatively, you can donate unused Charcoal to eateries and restaurants that sell grilled food items. They will appreciate your gesture and also put it to good use.

You can also donate large quantities of Charcoal to some online platforms like Scrapskc and the Watershed.

Sell It

You can sell your unused Charcoal if you do not wish to donate it. Local grilled food sellers or large restaurants may be willing to buy it if your price is not too high than usual.

You may want to discuss your plans with the restaurant before taking them to ensure they want it. However, it is best not to sell Charcoal that does not burn. Instead, try repurposing it. 

Repurpose Charcoal

There are several ways of repurposing unused Charcoal rather than throwing it away. This disposal method is suitable even if the Charcoal does not burn since you don’t necessarily need to use it for cooking.

Here are some of the ways to repurpose unused Charcoal at home:

  • Add it to compost or use it as fertilizers.
  • Add it to metals to prevent rust.
  • Use Charcoal in preserving flowers.
  • Deodorize garbage disposal, refrigerators, stinky shoes, etc. 
  • You can also use it to shine and polish shoes. 
  • Use Charcoal to reduce weeds.


You have seen the different ways to dispose of Charcoal in this post. However, it is essential to be more careful when reusing Charcoal briquettes containing flammable agents and other additive chemicals.

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