As someone who cooks for a living, I'm constantly seeing new innovations and technical advancements in cooking equipment. And of course, I want it all. Even thought I have a perfectly good set of cookware, knives, cutting boards and mixing bowls, I always find myself trying to justify just one more purchase.
Usually reason prevails and I take a pass. But sometimes I find that I'm unable to resist, convincing myself that I need Item X because it's bigger/more powerful/shinier/more efficient — then I get home and see that I already have an X, and since it works just fine, I'm left with a perfectly good appliance that I don't know what to do with.
Whether you find yourself in my situation or not, here are six tips for getting kitchenware out of your house — without sending them to a landfill.
1. For cookware that's still in good condition or appliances that still function, the most environmentally-friendly thing to do is to find a new home for it. Of course, make sure it's clean and has all the parts first.
2. Donate working cooking equipment to a resale shop, a shelter, or even your local fire station. One of my favorite places to donate household goods is the International Rescue Committee, which has locations in several major cities, and distributes the goods at its Resettlement Shops — where refugees can outfit their new homes.
3. Use the power of the Internet: A girlfriend of mine, who lives in Manhattan with twin toddlers, loves placing a free ad for what she's giving away on Freecycle because she doesn't even have to leave the house — her stuff's new owners come to pick it up themselves. If you use a site like Craigslist or Ebay, you might even be able to make a few bucks from your castoffs.
4. If the item is broken or damaged beyond repair, look into recycling it before you throw it in the trash. Glass and plastic kitchenware can likely be recycled, but you might need to take your metal cookware to a separate facility. Note: pans with nonstick coating are not always recyclable.
5. Take advantage of a manufacturer's program. Some kitchenware companies are helping the cause (the stipulation being, of course, that you usually need to replace your old stuff with their own products). Cookware company Calphalon, for instance, has a program called ReNew. If you buy a set of the company's new Unison nonstick cookware, it comes with a box and a prepaid label so you can send in your old cookware (any brand) — which the company will then recycle. Another kitchenware company, Chantal, is planning a similar promotion where you can donate old teakettles to participating stores for recycling; in exchange, you'll get a 20 percent discount on a new kettle.
6. When it comes to countertop appliances, the issue gets trickier, because they are typically made with a combination of plastic, metal, wiring, glass and other materials. Certain parts, such as the plastic or glass jar of a blender or food processor, or the metal trays and racks within a toaster oven, can be recycled. But the body of the appliance, which houses the motor or any other electric implement, might be a little more difficult to get rid of in a responsible manner. Call your local recycling company or search for recycling programs online for both local or national facilities.
Of course, the greenest (and cheapest) route is to resist that retail therapy urge, and instead use your cookware, countertop appliances and other kitchen tools until they truly are no longer functional. For those of us who can't resist, we'll try the above!