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How Simply Can You Throw Away Old Pots And Pans?

What to do with old frying pans? If you’ve just bought a new frying pan or other cookware you’re probably wondering how simply can you throw away old pots and pans? Here are a few ways you can pass your used cookware on for another life…

What to do with an old frypan or other cookware

Trash

You may be able to dispose of them at a landfill near you, but it could come with a cost. This is something you’d need to look into as local rules will differ. You could dispose of them in the trash, but it’s better to look at enviro-friendly options.

Donate

If they are not broken, you could look to give your pots and pans to another home via sites such as Craigslist and Freecycle. Then there is the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other charity stores to which you can donate them for resale.

Repurpose

There are tons of ideas on Pinterest around repurposing stuff, including old pots and pans. Ideas include using them for growing herbs, succulents, or perennials. You could also use them as your camping gear.

One DIY site lists 25 ideas for repurposing old cookware and kitchenware. So you could let your imagination go wild.

Recycle

Are frying pans recyclable?

If you are conscious of your footprint on the environment, you may be asking “can I recycle my old pots and pans?” Well of course! The following covers how.

1. Does the company offer a cookware recycling program?

Some cookware companies offer a recycling program for your old pots and pans. One like this is the Made In Cookware company, which has an opt-in where you can send your old pots and pans back to them. They work with a US metal recycler so you can feel good about discarding your old cookware. I wrote an article on Made In premium stainless steel cookware...but go direct to the Made In Cookware site if you want to check out the wider range they offer in cookware and kitchen essentials.

2. Are there cookware recycling programs near you?

Can you recycle a pan through local programs? Look into what cookware recycling programs are near you. The following might help on whether you can you recycle a frying pan or other cooking wares.

It covers recycling options for most cookware materials, including Pyrex, ceramic, Teflon, and aluminum, being the main types.

Pyrex glass

Curbside recycling programs generally don’t accept the Pyrex glass type of cookware. This applies to glass lids of pans also.

The reason is Pyrex contaminates the other recyclable glass because it doesn’t melt at the same temperature. Your best option with these is to pass them onto charity or to another home via the above suggestions.

Ceramic

By ceramic, I mean 100% ceramic cookware. Most people cherish their all-ceramic cookware. But if you need to dispose of it, where can it be recycled? Recycling programs generally don’t accept ceramic items because ceramic does not melt.1

If intact, you can pass ceramic ware on to new homes (see above).

For broken or chipped ceramic pots or pans, these can look great in the garden as a feature and there is plenty of repurposing and upcycling ideas on Pinterest.

The Zero Waste Institute says the best option is to find a way to …”Break the particles apart and return them to the clay that they were made from”.1 

I know broken up pieces placed in the bottom of pot plants make for excellent drainage. This is good as long as the product is 100% ceramic with no lead or other toxins in the glaze. This is not a concern with cookware sold in the US as it must meet strict safety guidelines governing lead content, similar to all food containers.

Metal cookware (including stainless steel)

You can check, but most curbside recycling programs don’t accept scrap metal and this means metal cookware.

Recyclers of scrap metals will probably want to know whether your cookware is nonferrous or ferrous.

You should know that your pots and pans contain nonferrous metal if they are made from aluminum, copper or stainless steel. 

For ferrous metal (iron), see if a magnet will stick to them. Cast iron skillets will pass this test. Other cookware with exteriors of stainless steel or another finish may also have a ferrous layer incorporated.

Stainless steel

It’s not as simple to recycle stainless steel as dropping it in the recycle bin, as noted by Green Cities, “stainless steel pots and pans can’t be put in single-stream recycling bins.” But instead, the place to discard these pots and pans for recycling is at the metal recyclers.

Metal recyclers

Are metal pans recyclable? Check with your local metal recycler to see what they accept. Some accept the following:

  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Brass bronze
  • Stainless steel
  • Lead
  • Iron
  • Nickel

what to do with old nonstick pans

If you want the best from your nonstick cookware, check out my article on how to prolong the life of a nonstick pan.

If your pan has succumbed to scratches and the aluminum is exposed, it’s best to replace it (see why in my article on healthy cookware choices for why). So what do you do with this worn pan? Can nonstick pans be recycled?

What to do with an old Teflon pan?

You can’t give it away, so for your old nonstick pan it’s either trash, or recycle or repurpose it when it’s looking like this…

old frypan, what to do with old frying pans, can you throw away old pots and pans or are non stick pans recyclable?
Worn surface exposes food to aluminum

Are nonstick pans recyclable? Can teflon pans be recycled? Yes, nonstick pans are recyclable, but metal recyclers may or may not take Teflon nonstick cookware (aks PTFE) — best to check.

For info on the cookware recycling options available for nonstick pots and pans in areas of the US, try searching Earth911’s Recycling Directory.2 

Recycling programs of cookware companies

Some companies have mail-back programs for PTFE-coated or ceramic coated nonstick cookware. For example, GreenPan has been known to offer recycling options for their ceramic nonstick pans.

How to dispose of Teflon pans or other nonstick

You can dispose a Teflon pan by repurposing or upcycling it! You’ll find ideas for repurposing or upcycling those old pots and pans on Pinterest. Here are a few to consider…

  • One way of recycling your Teflon pan – upcycle it as a chalkboard
  • Use them for planting out succulents
  • Use old skillets in crafting projects to melt plastic beads or the like

Just some ideas.

Final thoughts

Cookware will last much longer when treated with the care and you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which will also validate your Lifetime Warranty.  If you do need to replace your cookware or dispose of it for some reason, consider the environment and find options to suitably recycle it.

Info sources On cookware recycling

  1. Zero Waste Institute, Ceramics, accessed 30 January 2020.
  2. Earth911’s Recycling Directory accessed 30 January 2020. 
  3. GreenCities – Recycling stainless steel accessed December 2020.
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