If you’re making sure to recycle your aluminum soda and beer cans, pat yourself on the back — you’re helping to ensure that nearly three-quarters of the aluminum produced in the United States is reused again and again.
But what about all the other metal disposables found around your house? Maybe you’re like me and assume certain things just aren’t recyclable. But when my mostly-metal microwave broke recently, and I had to replace it, I started wondering if there were a more sustainable way to dispose of some of the metal waste in my house, besides the obvious food and beverage cans.
Of course, it’s always smart to check with your local recycling hauler to see what their specific rules are regarding the recyclables they accept, but here are some reminders about certain items that you definitely can divert from the landfill, whether it’s as easy as putting them in your curbside bin or it involves a trip to a recycling facility.
1. Aluminum Foil: Many recyclers will accept aluminum foil in their curbside bins, with one caveat: Like most recyclables, aluminum foil needs to be free of food residue. But it’s pretty easy to smooth out a piece of aluminum foil and use a damp dishcloth to wipe off any crumbs or grease before crunching it up and putting it in your bin with the rest of your metal recyclables. Of course, besides recycling, there are some other clever ways of reusing those aluminum foil scraps.
2. Metal Jar-Lids: Glass jars and bottles usually are sealed with metal lids, and while it depends on your hauler whether they should be left on or off the jars when you recycle them, they can often be recycled curbside. Some municipal recycling facilities (MRFs), however, have an issue with processing these tiny pieces with their machinery. To avoid this, you could fill a larger container of the same material with these lids, and then crimp the container closed. Most major city recycling programs, such as New York and Dallas, seem to allow the lids to be placed loose in recycling bins, so check to see if yours does too.
3. Appliances: No, you obviously can’t put that oven you’re throwing away in your curbside bin, but it is made of valuable metal that can be collected and reused. Find a local scrap metal recycler, many of which will accept old appliances such as ovens or washers and dryers. They might pick your appliance up from you for a small fee; or if you bring it in, chances are you could even earn a few bucks for the donation! The Responsible Appliance Disposal program, meanwhile, accepts refrigerators and freezers for recycling so it can safely dispose of the potentially harmful chemicals used in the cooling systems.
4. Cookware and Bakeware: It’s always the best option to give away or donate used cookware and bakeware if it’s still in usable condition. But if it’s not, that valuable metal that the cookware is made of can be recycled. As with appliances, your best bet is to drop off metal cookware at a scrap recycler. Chances are that metal pots and pans and baking sheets can’t be put in your curbside bin (although you can certainly check – Seattle, for instance, accepts these items).
5. Metal Construction Materials: If you’ve just finished a construction project and have scraps left over, from nails and screws to sheets or pipes of metal, these too can be recycled with other scrap metal at a scrap recycling center.
6. Wire Hangers: If you do a lot of dry cleaning, those flimsy wire hangers really pile up. Keep them in good condition and return them to your dry cleaner; you can bet they’ll be happy to be able to reuse them, or save them up and take them to the scrap recycler with your other metals.
The bottom line: Get to know your closest scrap recycler. If your household metals can’t go in your curbside bin, it might be worthwhile to collect those outcast aluminum and steel recyclables for periodic trips to your scrap recycler.