Dear Recyclebank: Are pots and pans recyclable? I bake a lot, and my pans in particular are pretty beat up. –Kaila P.
Dear Kaila: There’s a lot of metal tied up in your cookware, and we’re happy you want to recycle it. However, the variety of materials used in many pots and pans makes this a more complicated endeavor than it may seem, especially regarding pots and pans that have coatings or are made from more than one type of metal.
Some of the most common types of pots and pans are made from aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, and even copper. All of these metals have great value and can usually be recycled on their own with minimal fuss. That said, if your pan is coated with Teflon or another non-stick treatment, recycling becomes trickier. This is because the coating needs to be stripped before the usable metal can be melted down. Many handlers are unable or unwilling to do this, but there are some out there; always contact recycling facilities prior to sending your cookware along, to ask for their policy.
Even if your pot or pan isn’t coated, you probably won’t be able to just toss it in your curbside recycling container. As always, check your city’s policies first by visiting their website or by giving them a call. If you live in New York City or Montgomery County, MD, then you’re in luck because they do accept pots and pans there. For most of us though, it’s more likely to have to find a dedicated scrap-metal recycler. Use resources like the iScrap App to find suitable facilities in your area. Be sure they accept the type of metal you’re trying to recycle, as some places differentiate between ferrous and non-ferrous metals. When in doubt, you can use a magnet to test your pot; if it’s attracted, you have ferrous metal on your hands.
If you are unable to find scrap-metal recycling options, consider donating your pots and pans instead. They may be beat up, but if they’re in usable condition, it’s likely that someone out there will be happy to have them. Reach out to your local Goodwill or other charity (such as Recycle Pots & Pans) to see if they’ll accept your well-loved cookware.