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Home chef reveals what you should be doing with your old, potentially toxic non-stick pans: 'Why would they do that?'

"Also, many businesses have scrap metal bins."

Old, non-stick Teflon pans

Photo Credit: iStock

Many of us want to be a friend to Mother Earth, but it's sometimes difficult to get our hands on the information we need to make pro-environment decisions. 

That's the case for one Reddit user who can't seem to figure out how to recycle an old pan.

"Does anyone know how to properly and safely dispose of cookware with Teflon coatings?(question and partial rant)," they ask in a post on the Recycling subreddit. The poster had inherited the cookware from their parents.

One person comments that Calphalon Cooking Tools had a cookware recycling program, but it was shut down on March 31, 2023. "That's really sad that it's being shut down … why would they do that!" another person responds.

So where does that leave us?

Terracycle has a program that allows consumers to send in non-electric kitchen items like pots, pans, measuring tools, pitchers, plates, bowls, cutting boards, skillets, grills, and more. 

The program is not free, however — you must purchase a Zero Waste Box that costs anywhere from $143-$307.

As the plot thickened, the Reddit community rallied around the idea of taking the pans to a metal recycler.

"There are often bins at your local municipal dropoff yard for recycling and/or household hazardous waste," one person says. "Also, many businesses have scrap metal bins, and they sell the stuff to scrap yards or take it to a recycler themselves. Lots of options."

"Yeah sometimes you can even put scrap metal into your recycling bin, but you'll want to check your local recycling jurisdiction," another adds.

In the future, avoiding products with Teflon — the brand name for PTFE — coating could be your safest bet, though.

PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is often marketed as a better alternative to PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) — a pervasive group of toxic chemicals that has recently gained a lot of media attention because of their harmful effects on the environment and human health.

But some people are calling foul. PTFE coating contains chemical compounds that do not break down and can accumulate over time. If items containing these chemicals are disposed of improperly, the toxic compounds can end up in rivers and drinking water — exposing humans and other animals to health risks like kidney, thyroid, testicular, and ovarian cancers.

The good news is that an array of non-toxic pots and pans are on the market, including those made from cast iron and copper.

In the meantime, it looks like that Reddit user will be visiting a metal recycler. "I can find one," they say.

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