How to Safely Dispose of Your Kitchen Knives (and the Best Replacements for Them)

Knife Guides
Thursday, October 8, 2020

Any professional chef or frequent at-home cook knows the importance of caring for a knife so they don’t have to purchase a new one every time the blade becomes dull. This includes consistent sharpening, cleaning, adequate storage, etc. -- but sometimes knives can get past the point of return. This occurs when the blade is broken or large chip(s) appear on the blade. Sometimes, chips can be sharpened out, but this can take hours and even alter the angle of the blade. Therefore, getting rid of the knife becomes your best option. 

However, before you head to the trash can to toss your knife, press pause on that scenario because it can be dangerous. No matter how long you’ve had the knife -- even if it’s five years old and you haven’t sharpened it for the past six months, tossing it straight into the trash is too risky. It could possibly slice through the bag and injure you on the way to the street or it could harm an unsuspecting sanitation worker who ends up being the one to sort through your trash. 

Before you jump straight to tossing it in the garbage, you have other options to consider. These are taking your knife to the recycling center or donating it. This allows for your knife to be repurposed into something else or possibly bought and fixed by someone else. 

If you’ve reached the point where you’ve decided you need to dispose of your old knife and find a replacement, keep reading and we’ll discuss how to do both. 

Recycling 

Recycling 
Most metals can be recycled so recycling your old or damaged knives benefits the planet and yourself by knowing it will be repurposed into a new item for someone else to use.

Taking your old knife to your local metal recycling center is a great way to avoid tossing it into the landfill and instead allowing it to be melted down and made into something new. This is a better option if your knife is in a state of no repair -- meaning the tip is broken, several chips are present, or the whole blade snapped. 

Before you take your knife to the recycling center, be sure to know what type of metal it is made from. The good news is most metals are recyclable -- recycling centers will accept aluminum, brass and bronze, cast iron, copper, steel, and tin. 

Most kitchen knives are made from carbon steel or stainless steel, so there’s a good chance the center will accept your knife. If you’re unsure, the recycling center can help determine if the knife can be taken and recycled. 

Donating 

Donating 
Donating is a great way to help out someone in need who can make use out of the knives you are ready to part with. 

Donating your knife to Goodwill, another thrift shop, or to someone else is a good option when you have a set of knives you’ve outgrown, you’re in the market for new ones, or maybe they were your first beginner set and you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to upgrade. So, donating is the best option for when your knife is in usable condition, but you’re ready to part with it. Even if your knife has a small, but fixable chip -- you may not want to take on the task of repairing it, but someone else might. 

If your plan of action is to donate it to a thrift store, make sure to call in advance to see if they will accept a kitchen knife as a donation. If you’d rather a different option, give the knife to a friend who is just beginning their cooking journey and the knife could serve them as it once served you. 

Before giving your old knife to a new owner, take a few extra steps to be courteous to whoever ends up with it next. Start by washing the knife in warm, soapy water. Then sharpen the blade if you have the ability to do so. Wrap the knife in multiple layers of thick paper or newspaper and place it is a labeled box or container that describes the type of knife inside. 

Throwing it Away 

If you’ve decided to toss your old knife, be sure to have a cardboard box or other container on hand to properly store the knife you wish to throw away. 

So, if you’ve made it to this section after ruling out recycling and donating options -- you don’t have a recycling center, the knife is in too poor condition to be given to someone else, etc, then it’s time to prepare your knife for the trash. As mentioned before, you can’t simply toss your knife without taking the necessary precautions to avoid injuring yourself or someone else. 

First, you’ll need to find a way to secure the blade. This could be bending the edge back with a hammer or covering it in multiple layers of a thick paper, newspaper, or thin cardboard. Make sure your layers are securely sealed with a heavy duty tape, like duct tape. 

Next, find another cardboard box that is bigger than your knife and place it inside. Secure the box by taping it shut. If you don't have a box, a plastic or metal container that cannot be punctured, like a coffee can or milk container is a good option. Make sure the lid is securely fastened with tape. 

Last, throw the box or container with the knife in your trash. Once taken by a waste management company, trash is usually sorted through with magnets that detect metal, specifically metals used to make knives. 

The Best Replacement Options 

A full set of kitchen knives. From left to right: paring knife, utility knife, nakiri knife, chef’s knife and serrated knife. Image courtesy of Overlord Knives

Once you’ve properly disposed of your old knives, it’s time for the fun part -- purchasing your next, new set! Maybe you’ve outgrown your old set because you were a beginner when you purchased them and now you’re looking for an upgrade. 

The most important thing to look for when you’re in the market for new knives is a reputable brand that produces high quality knives. A top notch knife set will become your reliable go-tos for all of your cooking tasks. The only thing you have to do is properly care for and maintain your set. 

A few essential knives to look for are -- paring, utility, serrated, and chef’s knives. A paring knife comes equipped with a small but durable blade that will be able to accomplish all of your smaller prep tasks. A utility knife is a mid-sized knife that can do it all -- silicing, dicing, chopping, mincing, etc. This is a great option if you’re looking for a knife that is larger than a paring knife but smaller than a chef’s knife. A serrated knife comes with a scalloped blade that is perfect for slicing ingredients with tough, waxy, or slippery outsides but delicate and easily crushed insides like bread, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. Lastly, a chef’s knife is the largest knife of the group. It is an all-purpose knife that can accomplish any and all tasks -- whole meals can be prepared using only this knife. 

Together, these knives will accomplish all types of prep work you may need. A chef’s knife can cut through bone, while a paring knife can take care of finely detailed work like slicing garnishes and mincing garlic and ginger. 


heavy duty blade
Chef’s knife made with a heavy duty blade and comfortable handle. Image courtesy of Overlord Knives.

For example, this chef’s knife is made from 67 layers of Damascus steel that has gone through extensive treatments to ensure blade durability. The Pakkawood handle is designed to fit comfortably in the palm of the hand. It has also been sealed and resists moisture so you can feel secure and confident that this knife will remain safely in the palm of your hand. Priced at $59.99, this knife will look good as part of your new collection while not breaking the bank. 

Knives can become damaged as a result of regular use, or over time we outgrow our old knives and find ourselves looking for new ones. There are many reasons why you may need to dispose of an old knife and purchase new ones. No matter the reason, you have other options for getting rid of your knives, such as donating and recycling so your knife can continue being used under a new owner or be made into something new. When all else fails, you can take the knife out with your weekly garbage -- just be sure to properly secure your blade so that it does not cause any harm to yourself or a sanitation worker while being processed at the landfill.