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Because You Asked

Can I Recycle Metal Cookware?

By Recyclebank |

Not all pots and pans are alike: Different cookware must be processed differently, and curbside pickup often isn’t an option. Here’s how to handle it.


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.

SOURCES: Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Defense Council, NYC Dept. of Sanitation, SFGate


Have you successfully recycled pots or pans? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • sylvia s. 1 year ago
    I just checked - the city of Richardson, TX does recycle pots and pans in curbside. have to be clean and dry.
  • Rebecca G. 2 years ago
    Can peanut butter plastic jars be recycled? A friend told me that the oil cannot be successfully washed off & when melted down, the whole batch of plastics are ruined. Is this true?
  • Pamela Z. 3 years ago
    Can you recycle nail polish ?
  • Lynne H. 3 years ago
    Please do NOT throw away your mascara wands. Instead, clean JUST THE WAND with dawn soap, place them in a ziploc bag and mail them to a Wildlife Refuge accepting donations. These little wands are able to be upcycled to clean away oil, larvae, fly eggs, mites, infections, mud and other contaminants from wildlife. Works great for medical care and wound treatment

    Pick your refuge to mail to:

    Appalachian Wild
    P.O. Box 1211
    Skyland NC 28776


    Wildlife Wands
    P.O. Box 1586
    Southwick, MA 01077.
  • Rhonda O. 4 years ago
    Old pots make very cute planters. Throw some rocks in the bottom for drainage and don't over water. You can also donate to day care centers for the children to dig with or put in a kitchen center.
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