How to Dispose of Old Pots and Pans

Upgrade your kitchen with these tips on when to dispose of (or recycle) old pots and pans—plus how to do it.

Whether you're a professional chef or home cook, there's going to be a time when your pots and pans start showing their age a little too much. Years of creating delicious one-pot meals, soups, and desserts will do that. But how do you know when to replace your cookware? And what do you do with those pieces when they do retire? Here you'll discover the telltale signs that indicate when it's time to say goodbye to your kitchen pots and pans. And before you opt for new cookware, find out the best way to dispose of your old cookware—including how to recycle pans. Plus, we'll also share a few tips for proper cleaning and care to make sure your cookware investment lasts as long as possible.

old pots and pans hanging on white kitchen wall
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Signs That Reveal It's Time to Get Rid of Old Cookware

According to Laurie Klein, a consumer test kitchen specialist for Hamilton Beach Consumer Test Kitchen, good quality cookware can last a lifetime when properly cared for. However, "manufacturers recommend replacing some lightweight nonstick cookware every five years due to the nonstick finish," she says. With extended use, there may come a time where replacing old pots and pans is the best option. Here are some important old cookware details to look for:

  • Nonstick cookware is scratched or pitted.
  • Pan bottom is warped and doesn't sit flush on the cooktop. This will cause uneven cooking.
  • Loose handles. This could be a burn hazard if ingredients spill.
  • The stainless steel copper core is visible inside pan. This could happen from use and could be a health hazard.
  • Cracks or peeling. The cookware's metals might seep into the food which can present a health risk.

How to Dispose of Old Pots and Pans

Don't just toss your cookware into a landfill! If you're just upgrading your inventor and those pots and pans are still safe to use (meaning there's no safety issues from the above), donate them. There are also fun ways to upcycle old pots and pans into garden tools, planters, or creative DIY projects.

Recycle Cookware

Before you drop your old pots and pans into the weekly recycling pickup, think again. Sure, that metal skillet might seem like a common recyclable, but with the mixed materials, lumping it into a single-stream system might not be the best bet. "Check with your municipal departments public works to learn what can be recycled," Klein says. "Most likely, the cookware cannot be added to your weekly recycling bin." There are, however, scrap metal facilities that might take your cookware. Call ahead to determine what they accept. There are also companies such as Terracycle that have programs to properly dispose and recycle old cookware.

Making Your Cookware Last Longer

"The key for everlasting cookware is cleaning after every use and using the correct cooking utensils," says Klein. Here are some ways to keep those pots and pans in tip-top shape.

  • For ceramic, stainless steel, or nonstick cookware: Always wash in warm water with a mild dish detergent, rinse and dry immediately, except for cast iron.
  • For cast-iron cookware: It's important to follow manufacturer's directions for cleaning cast iron.

Klein also notes it's important to hand-wash cookware instead of using a dishwasher. And it's best to use wooden or heatproof plastic cooking utensils when cooking with ceramic, stainless steel, or nonstick cookware.

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