Live Green and Earn Points


Because You Asked

Are Recalled Products Recycled?

By Recyclebank |

From food and drugs to cars and toys, recalled products vary widely and must be disposed of properly. Some may even end up on store shelves again.

Updated On 08/01/2019 | Originally Published On 08/04/2015

Dear Recyclebank,

What happens to recalled products? Can they be recycled?

-John, TX

Dear John,

There are six government agencies that issue recalls to protect consumers from exposure to a variety of defective and dangerous products:


Because of the wide variety of products recalled and both the human and environmental risks associated with some recalled products, there are many different scenarios for what happens to recalled products. Some recalled products are dangerous to humans in their current form, but can be disposed of safely in landfills or even recycled into new products, while other products pose risks for humans and cannot be recycled and should not be disposed of in landfills.

Food that has been recalled is often dangerous for people to consume, but not necessarily dangerous to dispose of. For example, when there was a recall for Jensen Farms cantaloupes due to a listeria outbreak a few years ago, the FDA instructed consumers to simply dispose of the product in a sealed container to prevent children or rodents from getting to it and spreading the food-borne illness.

Products with low levels of toxicity may be able to be diluted to levels safe for human contact and then recycled into other products, like park benches. Devices that are not toxic at all, but merely defective, can ultimately be reconstructed correctly and resold; parts can be salvaged, or scrap materials can be recycled.

Products recalled for being highly toxic, however, are treated as hazardous waste and stored in large drums before being properly disposed of. And drugs that have been recalled by the FDA should be brought or mailed to pharmacies or designated drop-off centers, the same way you would properly dispose of used medical supplies, so that they can be diluted and disposed of as biohazard waste if appropriate.

Of course, these results assume that recalled products are collected and turned in to the proper agencies for proper disposal. According to CPSC spokesperson Scott Wilson, the recall power of an agency is limited beyond its issuance; getting products off retail shelves is possible, but with little control over consumers, receiving recalled products from the people who already own products is far less likely. And when you’re looking at something like toys tainted by lead paint, the results of improper disposal are, well, bad: If the toy is donated, it gets into the hand of someone else; if it is thrown in the trash, it sits in a landfill, possibly leeching into the groundwater supply over time.

To make sure you handle your own recalled products correctly, read the recall notices closely. Recall notices issued by companies should inform consumers of what they need to do, often requesting return to retailer or manufacturer.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Food Sentry
The New York Times
Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP
US Coast Guard (USCG)
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)



What have you done with recalled products? Share your stories in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • hpprinter c. 7 days ago
    A product recall is a request from a manufacturer to return a product after the discovery of safety issues or product defects that might endanger the consumer or put the maker/seller at risk of legal action.
  • Juanita C. 8 days ago
    What about the hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat that were recalled during the past year? I've often wondered what happens to that.
  • ALEX R. 10 days ago
    , I would definitely NOT add recalled produce to your compose pile unless you are vigilant about following all of the composting safety rules!!!
  • Hana A. 17 days ago
    When fresh produce, we dispose if listed recall from salmonella or such. And don't buy until ok is announced.
  • Barbara W. 19 days ago
    Glad to see another "Because You Asked", (the last one was on May 16th).
    Hope things are getting back on track!
  • View More