Landscaping rocks can be a great way to add visual interest and texture to yards and gardens. Over time though, you may need to remove or replace old landscaping rocks for a variety of reasons. Proper disposal is important for safety, aesthetics, and environmental impact. This guide will walk through the key steps and considerations for safely and responsibly disposing of used landscaping rocks.
Gather and Sort the Rocks
The first step is gathering up all the rocks you wish to dispose of. Using a shovel, rake, wheelbarrow, and/or gloves, collect rocks from garden beds, between pavers, along foundations, etc. As you work, sort rocks into piles by size and type.
- Larger decorative stones can be reused, recycled, or disposed of separately from gravel, pebbles, and crushed rock.
- Sorting makes reuse and recycling easier and reduces waste.
- Wear thick gloves to protect hands from sharp edges and insects.
- Use proper lifting techniques to avoid back strain from moving heavy rocks.
- Watch for underground utilities, pipes, or wiring as you dig around rocks.
Reuse and Donation Options
Before disposing of landscaping rocks, consider if they can be reused onsite or donated offsite:
Reusing on Your Property
- Incorporate rocks into new garden beds, pathways, or drainage projects. Larger accent rocks can often be reused in new landscaping designs.
- Use smaller gravel, pebbles, and crushed rock to fill holes, grade soil, or improve drainage in low areas.
Donating Usable Rocks
- Local schools, community gardens, churches, or nonprofits may be able to use clean, undamaged landscaping rocks for projects.
- Reach out to neighbors, friends, or community groups to see if they need stones for gardening or landscaping. This keeps usable rocks out of landfills.
- Clean rocks thoroughly before reusing or donating to remove dirt, chemicals, insects, and organic matter like roots.
- When loading or hauling reused rocks, take precautions against injury or spills.
For rocks that cannot be reused or donated, there are several responsible disposal options:
Curbside Bulk Pickup
Many municipalities allow households to schedule occasional bulk pickups for large items that won’t fit in trash cans. Check with your local waste services about maximum sizes and weights for curbside bulk pickup. Fees may apply.
Take unusable rocks that aren’t accepted for curbside pickup to your local landfill’s public drop-off area. Fees typically apply based on weight. Landfill staff can direct you on where and how to safely unload.
Hire Junk Removal
Junk removal companies will haul away and properly dispose of any rocks too large or numerous to handle yourself. Compare rates and availability of companies in your area.
In rural areas, rocks that are inert natural stone (not concrete, cinder blocks, etc.) can potentially be buried onsite. Check local regulations first and avoid burying near drain fields or wells.
- Wear protective gear when loading and unloading rocks.
- Cover hauled loads with tarps secured tightly.
- Follow all disposal site rules and directions.
When disposing of landscaping rocks, be mindful of potential environmental impacts:
- Avoid hazardous substances – Do not dispose of rocks with chemical residues like old weed barrier fabric, contaminated gravel, or painted/stained stones. These require special hazardous waste disposal.
- Prevent erosion and runoff – Take care to contain gravel and small rocks so they don’t wash into storm drains. Use screening if needed.
- Reduce dumping – Illegal dumping of rocks damages habitats and is unsightly. Always use regulated disposal sites.
- Reuse first – Reusing or repurposing rocks reduces demand for virgin natural stone and lessens landfill waste.
- Recycle rubble – In some areas, certain stone rubble can be crushed and recycled as construction aggregates. Ask locally.
Removing old or unneeded landscaping rocks takes some time and effort but following these safe disposal tips helps ensure the job is done properly. Reusing or recycling rocks first allows you to give materials a second life. When disposal is needed, take advantage of municipal pickup services or permitted waste sites to reduce environmental impact. With the right approach, you can both refresh your landscaping and be kind to the planet.