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Because You Asked

How Should I Get Rid of Grill Ashes?

By Recyclebank |

Charcoal makes grilled foods delicious, but its leftovers aren’t so savory.

Dear Recyclebank,

How should I dispose of charcoal ashes?

Corena S., Indian Harbor, FL


Dear Corena,

Charcoal ashes should only be handled after they are completely cooled. Once cooled, they can be collected in a non-combustible container such as an old coffee can or an empty, dry paint can. Or you can wrap the ashes in aluminum foil — a perfect reuse for food-contaminated foil, which cannot be recycled. The contained ashes should then be placed in the trash for pick-up. If you were thinking about spreading the ashes outside, first consider where those ashes came from.

Ash can make excellent fertilizer when alkaline soil is needed, but most charcoal ash should not be spread in your garden or compost. Popular brands of charcoal briquettes, which represent 93 percent of all charcoal shipped, contain additives that can affect the ash’s value as fertilizer and may pose a human health risk. Briquettes begin with scrap wood, but coal, borax, lighter fluid, and fillers may be added before the whole thing is pressed into a pillow shape. The shape and additives ensure an effective, consistent product.

Lump charcoal, the alternative to briquettes, also begins with scrap wood, but chemicals aren’t added during the manufacturing process. It is essentially burned wood and is therefore safe to add to your compost. Lump charcoal represents just 7 percent of charcoal shipped, but its use has steadily increased for at least a decade. Consider choosing it next time you grill; afterward, you can dispose of the ashes in your garden or compost pile. Or, skip charcoal entirely and go with the greener grilling option: a gas grill.

USA Today
Oregon State University Extension Service
Heath, Patio, & Barbecue Association
NPR: The Salt

What kind fuel do you use for your grill-outs and barbecues? Tell us in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Kelly R. 18 days ago
    Propane gas. When we use our fire pit or fireplace, I use the ashes in my garden.
  • Marge S. 1 month ago
    I like to use firewood for grilling.
    I save dryer lint for fire starters. There are two ways I use it - either directly or else I make fire starters by cutting apart the cups of an egg carton, filling each with dryer lint and then melting old candle scraps to hold it in place. The fire starter option works best if you have damp fireword.
  • Jean P. 1 month ago
    I use vegetable oil to start my wood fires. Works perfect
  • Faye L. 1 month ago
  • Michael C. 2 months ago
    I cook with wood, not lump charcoal, but actual wood, using paper trash (old mail) to light it, instead of lighter fluid. It saves money, and I can use the ashes afterward in the garden, once I sift them thru screen, to use the non-ash again.
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