Don’t Toss that Pan! How to Upcycle Cookware and Dishes

It’s likely that while you may be investing in higher quality cookware these days, you’ve got some not-so-sturdy worn out pots, pans, dishes and the like. But don’t simply throw them out. Some may have life left in them yet.

Here are a few ways to keep your kitchen from the landfill:

1. Recycle: For the pots and pans (especially scratched up Teflon) that are no longer suitable for use, you can see if a scrap metal recycler in your area will take them. Most curbside recycling won’t take cookware, and if it’s too dinged up for Goodwill, check around for a scrap metal recycler.

Cast iron skillets, while sturdy enough to last generations, may eventually need to be retired. Because they’re made from iron, they are an excellent candidate for recycling. But don’t toss it in with your cans and bottles. Check with your scrap metal collector on this one too.

Although it’s difficult, you may be able to find some recycling facilities that will take ceramic dishes. Ceramics can be ground up and worked into new ceramic pieces, but it’s not a common practice.

2. Compost: Some wooden spoons and bowls can be composted. But if they’re coated (which many are), they may not be suitable for the compost bin. You can check with your city’s compost program or a local compost collector for more info.

3. Repurpose: Of course, a pot that’s seen a better day in the kitchen could be on the verge of the best one yet in the garden!

  • Turn old pots, bowls or serving dishes into planter for ornamental plants and flowers (best not to grow food in a scratched up Teflon pot). A pot with two handles can easily be outfitted into a hanging pot as well.
  • You can use old cooking utensils (especially wood) as stakes for plants that need a little extra help.
  • Dull utensils (like wooden spoons) can be great toys for tots (and grown ups) for digging in the garden or sand.
  • Turn mugs or bowls into pen or jewelry holders.
  • Grow herbs in old glasses or mugs.
  • Use plates and shallow bowls to organize in cupboards, closets and drawers. They’re especially great for holding sticky oils and sauces that could leak onto surfaces, making cleaning easier.
  • Replace terra cotta pot saucers with an old plate.
  • Turn them into art projects. Paint dishes, mugs and bowls for the home or as gifts!

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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