The EPA estimate that in 2017 yard waste made up around 13% of all urban waste, and accounted for 6.2% of all the waste sent to landfill.
Many people struggle to know what to do with their yard debris. A lot of the time, it’s big, bulky, and hard to manage. If you’ve read my guide on how to compost, you’ll know that bulky materials need to be made smaller so they compost efficiently.
But what’s the best way to mulch leaves and chip branches?
With a chipper shredder of course!
They shred your waste down to a fraction of its original size. The best chipper shredder for composting can turn 20 bags of debris into just 1 bag of perfectly fine mulch that’ll break down into ready to use compost in no time.
Best electric chipper shredders for composting
My picks for the best electric chipper shredders.
I think all these options are excellent value for money. Each one offers something unique to make them stand out.
Sun Joe CJ602E Portable Chipper/Shredder
This budget-friendly chipper shredder is best for people with smaller gardens that don’t generate a lot of waste.
It can deal well with twigs and branches, reducing them to 1/17th of their original size. If your branches have a few stray leaves, this won’t be a problem, but the tool is not designed for shredding lots of leaves. It can also handle green waste, but I recommend being cautious with how much you put in so you don’t accidentally overload it.
The lightweight machine is simple to assemble, safe to use, and straightforward to troubleshoot. There’s a safety lock, so the motor will never turn on when the hopper is open. There’s also a big reset button you can use if you notice a jam.
This is the newer Sun Joe model. There’s a slightly older, less powerful version of this model that can handle branches up to 1.5 inches and has a reduction ratio of 16:1. It still works well and is cheaper, so a good option if you don’t mind not having the latest version.
- small and lightweight
- good safety features
- high user ratings
- small max diameter
- no collection bin included
Patriot Products CSV-2515 Wood Chipper/Leaf Shredder
Electric models are known for being less powerful than their gas counterparts. Patriot is trying to solve this problem.
Their electric wood chipper shredder has a max diameter of 2.5 inches – the largest max diameter of the electric options. It also has a very high reduction ratio, making it a great chipper shredder for composting. It can deal well with both tree limbs and leaves and has an extra-wide safety hopper for putting larger loads in.
The increased power comes with a downside, which is a more substantial machine that’s less portable. However, if you do a decent amount of manual gardening, then you should be well able to pull this around your yard.
You’ll notice that sometimes the motor will shut off by itself. This is the thermal indicator telling you the engine is getting too hot and needs to cool down. If you find this happening a lot, then slowing down your input should solve the problem. Alternating between soft and hard materials also helps to give the motor a break.
It comes with a debris bag and safety goggles included. And if you purchase their extension cord with your chipper shredder, the 2-year warranty is automatically increased to 3 years.
- large max diameter
- good reduction ratio
- large hopper
- can shred leaves
- collection bag included
- made in the USA
- less portable as heavier
Earthwise GS70015 Electric Chipper/Shredder
The Earthwise electric chipper shredder comes with a 40-liter plastic collection tub that you can attach to the underside of the machine. The container is a handy addition if you don’t have anything suitable at home.
You also get a tamper tool included. This is to help you push down batches of leaves into the hopper, or sort out blockages.
Another unique feature is the back wheels. They make the machine easy to move around so you can do a whole lap of your garden without much trouble.
The hopper has a wider opening to allow for faster feeding and the chipper shredder can handle a few leaves. But for lots of leaves take a look at their electric leaf mulcher.
One downside is the reduction ratio of 10:1. If you’re after the finest mulch available, this isn’t the product for you.
- 40-liter collection bin included
- bigger hooper opening
- can deal with some leaves
- lower reduction ratio
Sun Joe CJ603E Chipper Shredder
Another model from Sun Joe, this is their most powerful machine. It’s also the quietest chipper shredder on my list, and therefore the best chipper shredder for home use. It won’t wake your neighbors up if you want to do some early morning yard work.
Despite being so quiet, it also boasts the best reduction ratio. The electric chipper shredder will pulverize your twigs and branches down to less than 5% of their original size. Great if you want fast compost.
The reason it’s so quiet is to do with how the cutting blades work.
The CJ603E only has one rotary blade that acts as a horizontal grinder. More traditional shredders have two blades that chip the stick from the bottom. A second advantage of this design is that the machine is self-feeding, meaning it pulls the branches in by itself.
As Sun Joe manufactures the chipper shredder, it comes with the same safety features as the other model I featured and won’t run if the hopper is open. Be aware that the chute opening is quite small, so if you’re shredding lots of wetter materials, it can clog.
There’s a collection bag included with this model, which you can attach to two hooks on the side of the discharge chute. However, it’s pretty small, and a lot of users replace it with their own containers.
- good reduction ratio
- debris bag included
- narrow discharge chute
WORX WG430 Foldable Electric Leaf Mulcher
If you’re after a leaf mulcher, then this one from Worx is a solid choice. It’s by far the best chipper shredder for leaves and the best chipper shredder for pine needles.
It uses a bladeless design and instead uses a heavy-duty grass trimmer line. The line can deal with the occasional small twig, but you will find that the string wears out quicker the more twigs that pass through.
The lines that come with the machine are 0.09 inches in diameter (you get 24 of them). Many users prefer to replace these with trimmer lines that are 0.095 inches in diameter because you don’t need to replace them as often.
The leaf mulcher is simple to take apart without any tools and folds down nicely for ultra-compact storage. It also has a dust-reducing system in place. However, mulching leaves is very dusty, so don’t expect no dust at all. And you’ll need to clean the filters regularly to keep them working efficiently.
Sun Joe and Flowtron also sell leaf mulchers similar to this one. They both allow for different size settings ranging from coarse to fine. And also have different settings for things like wet leaves and pine needles.
- compact and easy to store
- easy to shred lots of leaves at once
- system to reduce dust
- can’t mulch wood
Best gas powered chipper shredders for composting
My picks for the best gas-powered chipper shredders.
I’ve featured options for all types of budgets and needs.
Patriot Products CSV-3100B Gas-Powered Wood Chipper/Leaf Shredder
Patriot makes all their chipper shredders in Wisconsin in the USA, so you can be sure of their build quality.
The Briggs and Stratton engine sets this machine apart from its counterparts and justifies a higher price-point. It’s fuel-efficient and is carbon compliant in 50 states. The engine also has a muffler system that brings noise levels down and has a low oil sensor to prevent engine damage.
The machine can take both smaller limbs for shredding and larger ones for chipping. The wide top-loading hopper will also pulverize any leaves and vegetation you drop in. It’s also one of the best chipper shredders for bamboo.
One downside to this machine is that users have reported clogs, although very rare, can be hard to fix. To prevent clogs from happening, try not to process too much material at once, and keep an eye on the included collection bag to make sure it’s not too full.
If you find the bag is always filling up too quickly, you can get their jumbo bag. It can hold double the material.
There’s also a 6.5 HP version that would be fine if you’re mainly shredding softwood.
- made in the USA
- high power
- good quality engine
- muffler system to reduce noise
- can shred bamboo
- clogs are hard to fix (but rare)
GreatCircleUSA Wood Chipper Shredder Mulcher
This 3-in-1 unit can chip, shred, and mulch. I’ve rated it as the best chipper shredder for the money.
You can use the top loader for shredding twigs and small branches up to 0.5 inches in diameter. And you can feed larger branches through a side chute so they skip the flails. Great Circle USA recommends that you feed wet and green materials through the top. This will increase the life of the chipping blades.
There’s also the option to buy a vacuum kit accessory that will suck leaves into the grinding chamber for mulching. This saves you the effort of having to bend down and shovel leaves in the top. The machine comes with a discharge bag, but many users have complained that the bag isn’t high quality and doesn’t stay in position.
Although it’s not light, the large solid tires mean it’s not difficult to move around by hand. If you want to travel long distances, you can get a tow bar and attach the chipper to a riding lawn mower or tractor.
- good customer service
- vacuum and tow bar accessory options
- different input options
- low quality discharge bag
YARDMAX YW7565 Chipper Shredder
This is another option that uses a Briggs and Stratton engine to deliver fuel-efficient results. The casing is durable, solid steel, which gives it a high-quality finish. However, this does mean it’s on the heavier side so slightly harder to move around.
The self-feeding chipper chute on the Yardmax chipper shredder is long and spacious (21″ x 14″) and can comfortably accommodate longer limbs. The discharge chute is adjustable, so you can alter the angle at which the mulch comes out.
Users have recommended that to prevent clogs in the chute, you should remove the safety flap. The flap is there to stop you from being able to put your hand in the chute. Unless you’re operating it with children around, there should be little risk in removing it.
Another way to prevent clogs is to make sure the blades are sharp. The blades on the Yardmax are easily accessible, so any maintenance is quick and hassle-free.
- easy to access blades
- large self-feeding input chute
- adjustable discharge chute
- fuel-efficient engine
- durable steel casing
- no debris bag
Tazz 18493 K32 Heavy Duty Chipper Shredder
The budget-friendly Tazz Earthquake machine prides itself on user-friendliness.
For example, the top of the hopper is only 34 inches above the ground, so you never need to do any major lifting to feed your materials in.
It also comes with a debris bag, which, unlike its competitors, is designed with the user in mind. The bag has a bottom zipper, fabric carrying handles, and a drop ‘n lock connection mechanism.
As well as the bag, they offer a vacuum accessory. Tazz claims their vacuum is 20% stronger than other similar tools on the market, making your job even easier. The viper engine supports a 20:1 reduction ratio, which is the highest out of the gas chipper shredders I’ve featured. If output size is your main concern, this is your best option.
Tazz has a few different options depending on how much power you need. You can check out the whole range as well as the accessories they offer here.
- long warranty
- user-friendly discharge bag
- vacuum and tow bar accessory options
- good reduction ratio
- users have complained of missing parts
Landworks Mini Wood Chipper Shredder
This chipper shredder is very affordable for a gas-powered model. It has the same engine as its larger counterparts, but it lacks some of the other capabilities.
For example, there’s only one input, an extended safety hopper, to load everything in. And there’s no option to attach a vacuum kit to collect leaves, although you can still use it to grind leaves. It just won’t be as efficient.
The discharge cute has an adjustable flap that you can use to direct the output to the spot you’d like. Adjusting the angle as you go means you don’t have to move the machine around as much. Not that portability is an issue. This is the lightest gas-powered chipper shredder on my list.
I think this is a good option for those who want the power and larger max diameter a gas engine offers, but don’t want the price tag.
Detail K2 Gas Powered Kohler Engine Wood Chipper
This commercial chipper shredder is the best choice for anyone who needs big tree branches shredded. It has by far the largest max diameter at 6.25 inches. This will massively cut down on the amount of prep work you have to do before feeding the tree branches in.
It comes with a tow bar and road legal tires (up to 25 mph), so you can move it between properties or fields if you need. The chip chute rotates 18o degrees so you can direct the wood chips into any container you wish, including straight into a pick-up truck.
Assembly is simple and can be done alone with most users saying it took them between 40-60 minutes. The chipper shredder is shipped with all the necessary tools. There’s also an electric start version available, but even without this, the chipper shredder isn’t hard to start.
- large max diameter
- heavy duty
- road legal tires
- easy to assemble
- not portable by hand
Patriot Products CBV-2455H Walk Behind Leaf Vacuum/Chipper/Blower
This option’s a bit different to the rest of the chipper shredders I’ve featured.
It’s a walk-behind chipper shredder. The idea is that you can push this around your yard and it’ll vacuum up any organic yard debris on the floor and mulch it. This saves you the hassle of going around and collecting it all.
If you come across any larger sticks, you can pick them up and feed them directly into the in-built chute. They’ll then be chipped and collected along with the rest of the materials. The CARB compliant Honda engine operates smoothly and quietly, so it won’t annoy any neighbours.
I think it’s a nifty little machine that’s really helpful in not letting fallen debris go to waste. Instead it converts it into mulch for composting.
- no need to collect debris before mulch
- can be converted into a blower
- comes with a discharge bag
- easy to operate
- fuel-efficient Honda engine
- made in the USA
- can only handle smaller limbs
- no hose attachment
Chipper Shredders to avoid
Unfortunately, not all chipper shredders are created equal.
When choosing a machine, it’s especially important to consider the build quality and warranty offered.
Chipper shredders are powerful machines that have to be built to withstand high pressures and forces. Skipping on quality is a surefire way to a burnt-out motor or a completely fired machine.
SuperHandy Wood Chipper Shredder
Superhandy is a brand I mentioned in the best gas chipper shredders, and I do like their gas products.
However, their foray into electric chipper shredders leaves something to be desired. It’s a lower budget option and you can tell. It’s lower quality and doesn’t have the same durability.
The machine can only handle very light use age and will only chip very dry materials. Feeding the chipper shredder any sort of green stuff will dull the blades extremely fast.
No one wants a chipper shredder where you spend more time trying to fix problems than creating mulch, especially when it doesn’t come with a warranty.
- bad quality build
- not durable
- no warranty
Gas vs electric chipper shredders
There are two types of chipper shredders: gas or electric.
Electric motors are quieter, cheaper, and better for the environment. However, they’re less powerful than gas machines and are unable to deal with larger limbs. The average max diameter for an electric chipper shredder is 1.5-1.75 inches. Electric machines are also smaller and lighter than gas models so are easier to move around.
Are you the owner of a small yard? Are you looking for a tool to help you shred the occasional load of small twigs for your home compost pile? Then an electric motor is probably the right choice for you. Bear in mind that an electric chipper shredder requires a power source. If you want maximum portability, it’s wise to invest in a heavy-duty 12 gauge extension cord.
Gas motors are not limited by wires since they don’t need a power source. However, over time they’ll need more maintenance, such as regularly changing the oil.
Gas-powered models can be very powerful. The ones for home use can usually take branches up to 3 inches in diameter. One machine can deal with large and small limbs, as well as leaves and green materials. Electric models can only deal with either leaves or wood and not both. Although there are exceptions.
Gas chipper shredders are a better choice for people who plan to get a lot of use out of their machines. Or want something that can handle a wide variety of material without much trouble.
Chipper shredder buying guide
A good quality chipper shredder will last you several seasons, so it’s essential to get the right one for your needs.
If in doubt, I suggest going for better specs because this will ensure you don’t end up overworking your chipper shredder. The most common reason for failures is the user pushing their machine beyond its capabilities.
I’ve put together a guide to the most important features to look out for.
You have a choice between gas and electric, I’ve discussed the merits of each one above.
Reduction ratios will vary from around 10:1 – 20:1, with 10:1 meaning the tool will reduce 10 bags of debris into just 1 bag.
For composting, a chipper shredder with a higher reduction ratio is better because the output will break down faster.
This refers to the max diameter of limbs the chipper shredder can take.
If you’re just looking for a machine to help to chip the occasional twig, then you’ll be okay with a lower capacity. But if you have larger limbs, then it’s best to go for a high-end model with a bigger capacity.
Keep in mind the diameter includes any side branches that hang off the main branch. If you have a Y shaped branch, you may need to chop it in two before feeding it to your machine. The larger the capacity of the chipper shredder, the less pre-processing of the tree limbs you’ll need to do.
Before you buy any chipper shredder look at the materials it’s compatible with. Leaves, bamboo, and palm fronds are all examples of materials you need to double-check the tool can deal with.
Most brands claim their chipper shredder will effectively shred almost everything. But this isn’t always the case.
A good trick is to read the reviews and see if anyone mentions how well the brand performs with the type of debris you plan on shredding.
There are several factors to consider with hopper design.
The first is how wide the opening is. If it’s narrow then you’ll have to feed materials in more slowly, which could be annoying if you have a lot to get through.
The second is the positioning. The position of the input chute will determine how easy it is to feed materials in. For example, top-loaded hoppers use gravity to help push the limbs into the machine, meaning less work for you.
Some chipper shredders will have several different inputs. This is good because it means you can feed the material directly into the shredders that work best on it. This prolongs the life of all the blades inside.
If you want to move your chipper shredder around a lot, then pay attention to these three things:
- the weight of the machine
- the quality of the wheels
- the handle
These are the three factors that determine how portable the machine is.
Another thing to consider is whether you can attach a tow bar to the chipper shredder. That way you can pull it along behind a riding lawn mower, or a tractor.
Wood chippers can be very noisy, so much so it’s normally recommend that you wear hearing protection. This is something to think about if you live in a suburban area and have close neighbours. You don’t want to end up with noise complaints!
Electric models are quieter, so go for one of these if noise is a concern.
What’s the difference between chipping and shredding?
The title ‘chipper shredder’ is pretty confusing when you first come across it, and the words are often used interchangeably. But the difference is pretty simple. Chipping and shredding are just two different ways of chopping up limbs.
A chipper uses sharp blades to break down large, hard-wood branches into smaller, easier to manage wood chips. A shredder uses semi blunt blades, otherwise known as flails, to tear smaller branches and softer green materials apart. Both actions reduce the size of the original material, shredding more so than chipping, and make it more suitable for your compost pile.
A chipper shredder is a machine that’ll perform both chipping and shredding. It’s up to the user which of these settings you use.
There’s also a third word sometimes thrown into the mix – mulching. This refers to the process of creating mulch for your garden, and you can also use the output for compost.
You can make mulch out of various things, but mulcher tools typically only handle soft organic material like leaves. They don’t have enough power to break down any type of wood. But less power means a smaller price tag. If leaves are all you have to deal with, a mulcher or leaf shredder could be a good option.
I hope this guide has helped you find the best chipper shredder for your needs, whether you’re making compost or just sprucing up your garden.
All the choices we’ve featured are high-quality, efficient products. We’re confident you’ll love whichever one you pick.
Remember to treat your new tool with care, and it could last you a lifetime!