May 3rd, 2012

Green Questions Groovy Answers-How to Recycle Teflon

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Groovy Green Livin Recycle Teflon pans

Welcome to week two of Green Questions, Groovy Answers. A big thank you to everyone who submitted their excellent name suggestions for this new weekly column. Rebecca from Natural Mothers Network came up with the winner: Green Questions Groovy Answers. Thank you Rebecca! If you have a question you would like answered please submit it through the comment section, Facebook, Twitter or shoot me an email.

This weeks question came from @twituva on Twitter.

What should I do with my old Teflon non-stick pans? Is there a preferable way to recycle/discard them?

Despite the ease and con­ve­nience of non-stick pots and pans such as Teflon, many health conscious people are tossing their non-stick and replacing them with healthier options.

What’s wrong with Teflon?

Non-stick pots and pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. Teflon is toxic. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures have lead to many pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year.

Thankfully, there are many green and non-toxic alternatives on the market.

Now the 20 million dollar question: What do we do with all of our old Teflon and non-stick pans?

This is a challenging question. Do we really want to donate something that could potentially harm someone else?  If we throw them in the trash they’ll end up lying around in an overflowing landfill, leaching toxins into the soil. So what’s the answer?

I decided to turn this tough question over to some of my favorite green gurus in the blogosphere to see what they had to say.

Nancy from Surviving and Thriving on Pennies says ” I donated mine to Goodwill a few years back. What I think is bad might be a perfectly good pan to others. In a way helping others get stuff for cheaper. Still bothers me though.”

Suzanne from Mommy Footprint has a fantastic suggestion and Karen from EcoKaren agrees : “tough one…many play-based preschools have sand boxes with pretend kitchens. This is the perfect spot for discarded Teflon…it won’t be heated back up!”

Deanna Duke from Crunchy Chicken suggested “As much as I hate passing the toxic buck to someone else, giving it to Goodwill is a decent option. If someone else buys it, then that’s one less new pan being purchased and, in the end, produced.” Stephanie from Good Girl Gone Green agrees that donating the pans is a good option.

Anna from Green Talk came up with a few creative uses for those non-stick pans: “I wonder if you could put a picture in the middle of the pan and create kitchen art. Lots of people have those hanging pot racks. Or maybe you could take the handle off and use the pot for plant drainage.”

Diane from Big Green Purse came up with an interesting thought “Why not send them back to the manufacturer?”

Beth from My Plastic Free Life agreed with Diane “I love Diane’s idea of sending them back to the manufacturer with a letter explaining why. I donated mine to Goodwill. I don’t like ‘passing the buck’ either, but I figure if someone wants Teflon pans, better they use my old ones than buy new ones and encourage the market for Teflon.”

What do you do with your old Teflon pans?

[Photo used under creative commons from Jerry Pank/Flickr]

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24 Responses to “Green Questions Groovy Answers-How to Recycle Teflon”

  1. These days, when I buy things, I consider whether it can be recycled or reused,in addition to whether it is healthy to use. Good topic–perhaps airing it will discourage others from buying these products. Does the teflon wear off over time? I’d ask the mfrr if the teflon can be removed.

  2. Make a wind chime.

  3. I agree that people should be encouraged not to buy them in the first place, but many already have these products and are looking for a good solution of what to do with it now. Love these answers and I would be curious to hear if people have any success in sending their Teflon back to the manufacturer.

  4. I had read somewhere that you could actually have the teflon sandblasted off for a reasonable price and salvage the underlying stainless steel pan. For cheap pans, I’m sure that’s not worth it, but for nicer pans perhaps. Otherwise, there are local scrap metal companies that will take teflon pans for recycling though I’d be curious what they actually do with the teflon or how they dispose of it. Some manufacturers do take them back, but I don’t know which ones for sure – and again, I would be curious to know what ends up happening with the teflon.

  5. If your teflon held up nicely – passing it to the Goodwill is a good option. But the teflon covered pots and pans I had were of no use to anyone else (they burned food and were peeling off) so the idea of sending it back would work. But then again, one of my favourite (Till it burned)was made in Germany and sold at Winners so I wouldn’t know where to send it…
    I still don’t have an answer as what to do with my close to retiring $70 two-year old pan – can’t fry food in it as it sticks. We are switching to Stainless or ceramic gradually.

  6. Great post my friend and thanks for the mention! :) :)

  7. Interesting post! We write about recycling fairly often, but I’d never even considered what to do with old, unwanted Teflon pans before. I’d feel bad about giving it to Goodwill, because the person who bought it might not even know about the possible unhealthy side effects. I love the idea of returning it to the manufacturer, or possibly donating to some sort of artist who works with found objects.

  8. Haha, mine are in a box in the basement and I sometimes use them for smashing bugs.

  9. Hi all. Love this post! Here are a few ideas:

    *Calphalon has a recycle your old and buy new (non-Teflon of course) program: http://www.cookware.com/Recycle-Your-Old-Cookware-with-Calphalon-ReNew!-A1094.html

    *But if you don’t have Calphalon, and also don’t want to pass your Teflon on to other humans, I think your local metal recycling will happily take pots and pans because, let’s face it, metal has value.

    *They definitely make great kitchen supplies for kids’ play kitchens or outdoor sandbox and plastic-free beach projects.

    *Save an old pot for non-food crafting-related projects like working with wax.

    *Save a pot for camping (it might be Teflon, but if you don’t camp that often, maybe it’s okay to use once in a while) that you won’t mind getting black soot on the bottom.

    *Turn it into a planter (if it’s a deep Teflon pot) or a whimsical birdbath (if it’s a not so deep pan).

    The possibilities are endless!
    Liesl,
    TrashBackwards.com

  10. Great ideas so far! A few ideas for round skillets (with or without handle) could be:
    *spray paint it with flat or textured spray paint. You could use as a centerpiece or decor. Fill it with rocks/ sand/ coffee beans/ water and add candles.
    *Use as a general “catch-all” for keys, coins, etc.
    *I think magnetic paint exists, so coat with that and top with a pretty paint, hang skillet on the wall (burner side showing) and use magnets to post pictures or recipes.
    *Stack a few of different sizes to raise potted plants for variety.
    *When I water hanging plants, I’ll hold a skillet underneath to catch the dripping water and reuse on the same or other plants.

  11. Hi Reena,

    Great suggestions. I agree-it’s so important to think about where the product will end up after we are finished with it. I need to work on that myself! My understanding is Teflon can be removed, but it’s a costly process. Probably would cost more than the value of the pot or pan.

  12. I like that idea Jeanne. Have you made a wind chime?

  13. Hi Brenna, I’m also curious to know if anyone’s tried sending Teflon back to the manufacturer. Anyone given it a try?

  14. Thanks for the info Jasmine. I would be interested to know the cost of removing the Teflon. I’m guessing it would cost more than the value of the pan? Thanks for the info.

  15. Hi Olena, there are lots of great suggestions in the comments for Teflon art projects! Maybe you will be able to find another use for the pans around your home. Let me know what you come up with.

  16. You are so welcome Stephanie!

  17. Another great idea-thank you Bret! I’m sure there are artists who would like to use old pots and pans for some creative art.

  18. Ha! Rosemary thanks for the laugh.

  19. Thank you so much for such helpful information, Liesl. So many great suggestions for old Teflon.

  20. Hi Ada, So many more wonderful ideas for using old Teflon. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Thanks- I am honoured that you chose my title idea:-)
    To find out more about studies done on the toxic effects of PFCs (found in Teflon) on our bodies, go to universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/19421.
    I’m such a fan of your site- Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x

  22. Hi Rebecca! Thanks for your fantastic suggestion. Really appreciate it. Thanks for the link to the study-I’m going to ready through it this weekend. I’m a BIG fan of your site too!

  23. Great ideas! For a DIY solution, perhaps you could fill unwanted teflon skillets with fragrant wax and create large, multi-wick candles for rustic centerpieces and outdoor picnics. Various brands already sell dessert-scented candles in little skillets, so this could even serve as a fun way to just save money!

  24. I’m very confused by this post… Teflon is hugely toxic when it’s flaking off pans and you’re all advocating giving it away to poor people or letting your children play with it?

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I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

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