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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Are Metal File Cabinets Recyclable?

By Recyclebank |

Recycling and donating are both good choices for disposing of these bulky furnishings.

Dear Recyclebank: Can you recycle metal file cabinets? I don’t want to throw them out if they can be recycled. –­Megan H.

Dear Megan: Metal file cabinets can be recycled, but they’re too big for you to just put on the curb with your recycling bin, and most haulers won’t take them.

Instead, recycle metal file cabinets and other large metal items such as appliances or desks via a scrap recycler.

You can look for one near you on the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. website — chances are, they’ll even pay you for your trouble! We called an Atlanta-area recycler, Davis Recycling, and learned their current rate for metal was 4 cents a pound. For a 4-drawer filing cabinet, that would net you around $5 or $6. A drop-off recycling center might also accept large metal items, be sure to call first or check their list of accepted materials online.

Steel, which is what most file cabinets are made of, is one of the most recycled materials in the world, and thankfully its qualities and durability don’t break down during the recycling process.

Even better: Find it a new home.

While it might be tempting to pocket a few bucks while freeing up some space in your office, it’s even more environmentally responsible to find someone who could use your unwanted steel file cabinet in its current form. Here are some ideas:

1. Advertise it for sale or free in your local buy-sell group.

2. Donate it to a local nonprofit office.

3. Give it a fresh coat of paint or a makeover to turn it into a brand-new piece of furniture (or even a sturdy outdoor planter!).

Donate, sell, or recycle … any one of these choices is a smarter and more sustainable one than sending good quality metal to the landfill.

SOURCES: National Business Furniture, Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.

Have you dropped off large items at a scrap recycler? Share your experience in the comments.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Eliot L. 10 days ago
    Blustery wind and gusts up to 75 mph. caused a double aluminum awning to get ripped and thrown into my yard below. Clean up was a breeze, shoved it in my car and scraped it myself. Worth the ride
  • NAncy Lee B. 12 days ago
    We put one on freecycle and had someone picked in less than a week. If worried about security you can dolly outside an hour before scheduled pick and and wait with a friend.
  • Christine G. 13 days ago
    Whether short or tall, they can be freshened up with some fun funky paint, roller wheels placed on the bottoms and used as craft storage. The shorter ones can be rolled under work tables.
  • Beverly S. 14 days ago
    Our city has bulk trash pick up once a month. People troll the neighborhood that weekend and pick most all of the metal that gets set out. I assume they're selling it for scrap.
    • Eliot L. 10 days ago
      Dey sum bold and loud. A hole came into my locked yard to "troll" around. I shined a very bright tactical flashlight on and strobe included. They leave my yard alone now.
  • Margaret D. 14 days ago
    But, what if it is rusted? Still recyclable?
    • Gina L. 13 days ago
      In the recycling process for steel, the material is shredded and then melted to create new sheets of metal. If the rust is simply melted, it will re-form once the metal cools. That’s why the recycling process also includes purification, where elements like carbon can be added to bond with the oxygen and free the iron. This also removes other impurities like ink or dried paint.

      However, just because rust can be removed during recycling, there are still a few factors that may affect the market for rusted steel:

      Most scrap metal yards will pay you by weight, and metal with severe rust damage will weigh less.
      Scrap metal accepted for recycling must be a majority made of metal, so if your product is half-metal and half-plastic and the metal corrodes away, it likely won’t be accepted as scrap metal. Is Rusted Metal Recyclable? -
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