Recycle the stainless steel from around your your home

I have a theory about the age-old puzzle of socks that go missing in the washing machine or dryer. They turn into cutlery – and always cutlery pieces you already have enough of, never items you don’t.

Don’t ask me how, I’m not a science-talkin’ dude, but I’m sure it happens. Count your cutlery items and your socks before doing a load of washing and I guarantee you’ll have at least one less sock at the end of the cycle, but one more mismatched knife, fork, spoon or sundry cutlery piece you have absolutely no use for. It’s a kind of alchemy and teleportation rolled into one phenomenon!

Many households accumulate quite a hoard of cutlery, pots and pans over the years, some of it rarely used – and it’s a valuable hoard that could be better utilized.

As “Reuse” is the second of the 3R’s of green living (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) the first strategy is to either sell the surplus items or give them away to charity. The pre-loved item that someone else buys or otherwise receives is one less item that has to be produced to meet that need.

Failing that, given the metal in cutlery and some pots and pans may be stainless steel, these items can be recycled. Cutlery, pots and pans that are stainless steel will usually have that indicated by a small stamp somewhere on the item. In terms of pots and pans, if it’s not stainless and lightweight, then it’s likely aluminum; which can also be recycled.

Stainless steel is sought after by recyclers as aside from its iron content, it contains valuable elements such as chromium, nickel and molybdenum. The more that is recycled, the less of those elements that need to be mined which means less environmental damage associated with mining operations, not to mention the major energy savings in recycling.

According to the International Stainless Steel Forum; unlike other recyclable materials, 80% – 90% of stainless steel does wind up being recycled – very little winds up in landfill. The challenge is that because stainless steel is so durable, it can be decades before it is.

80% – 90% recycling rate is pretty darned good, but we could boost that a little by recycling all the bits and pieces we have stashed away that we don’t need and can’t sell or give away.

In any stainless steel item we buy these days, up to 60% of its weight is recycled materials. However, most of the recycled content isn’t from end-of-use items, but from scrap materials from production and manufacturing.

Stainless steel can be recycled without any degradation – this means products made from 100% recycled stainless steel are viable as the only limit on the ratio is the availability of scrap material.

So, if you can’t sell or give away the stainless steel items you don’t use to friends, family or charity – have a chat to the folks at your local recycling depot. They may even pay you a few bucks for your stainless steel scrap. Some sell prices I checked at the time of writing were around the USD$1.20 a pound mark for small quantities. If you’re really enterprising, a stainless steel drive in your neighborhood or as a school fundraiser might generate a bit of cash!