Dear Recyclebank: Are kitchen knives and “silverware” recyclable? I am moving and have a lot of extra kitchen cutlery I no longer need. –John B.
Dear John: Technically the metal in your cutlery is probably capable of being recycled, but getting it where it needs to go isn’t always straightforward.
First of all, you’ll need to assess which type (or types) of metal your silverware contains. Metals like stainless steel and aluminum, as well as even more valuable materials like silver, can be recycled. Look for a stamp on your items to see if the type of metal is indicated. This may not be obvious at first; silver may have three-digit markings like 925 or 800, or it may indicate that it’s silver-plate, meaning that more than one type of metal is included.
At the bare minimum, do a magnet test on your cutlery. If it’s attracted to your magnet, the metal is ferrous; if not, it’s non-ferrous. This will be important information if you take your items to a scrap metal recycler, as we’ll discuss in a moment. Also keep in mind that any additional elements in your cutlery, such as wooden or plastic handles or special coatings, will complicate the recycling process.
Once you know what materials you’re dealing with, you can look into whether your curbside program will collect your cutlery. Unfortunately, the answer is often no, because cutlery doesn’t play well with most sorting machinery at Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), but there’s no harm in calling to check. (Learn more about metals accepted for curbside recycling.)
Here are some of your other disposal options if you get a “no” from your hauler:
1. If your utensils are in good condition, consider donating them first. This is the easiest way to extend their useful life, getting them directly to people who need them while saving the time and resources needed for recycling. While itemizing deductions may be less popular under the new tax code, you should still be able to get a tax write-off if you choose to do so.
2. Find out which scrap metal recyclers are available in your area. Each will accept different types of metal, and some may specialize exclusively in ferrous or non-ferrous metals, or even a particular type of metal. Depending on market rates, you may actually make some money for your old cutlery!
3. Crafters love even damaged silverware, as it can be repurposed for all kinds of creative projects. Ask the crafty people in your life if they want your used utensils, or post an ad on Craigslist or your local buy/sell/trade Facebook page to see if anyone is interested. You might even want to consider a project of your own, if it would create something of use to you without adding to your clutter. Check out silverware recycling on Pinterest for some unique ideas.
Metals are incredibly recyclable and reusable if you know which steps to take. Almost half of the US metal supply was recycled in 2015, with around 800,000 tons of stainless steel being recycled annually. Your cutlery can help nudge those numbers higher.