If you need to dispose of pots and pans, the first option to consider is reuse. Sites like Craigslist and Freecycle are good options for finding your cookware a new home, as are second-hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. A few scratches may matter to you, but these materials are likely still usable.
For pots and pans that have seen better days, recycling is an option, but likely not your curbside bin. Unless your curbside recycling program accepts “scrap metal” (only about 5 percent of the curbside programs in Earth911′s recycling directory fit this description), recycling will take a little more effort.
Most cookware is going to have some portion of metal, and for recycling purposes you’ll want to know whether it is ferrous or nonferrous metal. Your pots and pans are most likely nonferrous metal, made from aluminum, copper or stainless steel. If they attract to a magnet though, they are ferrous metal. This matters because some recyclers only accept either ferrous or nonferrous metal.
If your cookware is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (what you may know by the DuPont brand name Teflon), recycling may be more limited as this needs to be removed prior to recycling. Once you find a scrap metal recycler, you should call to see if Teflon-coated pans are accepted.
Some cookware will also have no metal component, such as ceramic bowls or Pyrex baking plates. You’ll want to keep any of this “glass” out of your curbside bin, as these materials have been treated to be more durable and are a contaminant to your glass bottles and jars.
A Pyrex plate will not melt at the same temperature as container glass during the recycling process, which would make the resulting material unusable. Unfortunately, there are few recycling options at this time for non-container glass.
As for cooking utensils, wood spoons can likely be placed with any organic waste to be composted. Metal utensils offer the same options as metal cookware, but plastic spatulas and flatware are going to pose problems. For starters, you’re unlikely to know what type of resin they are made of, which is the first step to determine recyclability of plastics.
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