Can You Recycle Keys

How and Where to Recycle Keys: A Guide

Have you got some old keys that you need to get rid of? Well, you will be pleased to know that most keys can be recycled.

All keys that are entirely metal can be recycled. If your keys have plastic on them, you should remove them if possible. If you can’t remove the plastic, then you won’t be able to recycle that key. Mixed plastic and metal products cost too much to recycle together.

There are a few that cannot. However, most can be. Let’s explain!

Can You Recycle Keys?


They are straightforward to recycle. Anywhere that accepts scrap metal recycling will be able to work with most types of keys.

While you will not be able to get the keys picked up from the side of the road like some recycling, just about every recycling center and dump will have somewhere you can take your keys to be recycled. We will talk more about that in a short while.

What Do You Do With Old House Keys?

Old house keys should be recycled if possible. Keys made entirely of metal can be placed in the mixed metal container at your local recycling center. Make sure that any plastic is removed from your keys before recycling them.

What Type of Keys Cannot Be Recycled?

Nearly every single metal key can be recycled. However, you cannot reclaim any key that has plastic on the key.

While plastic and metal are recyclable, they cannot be recycled together. For them to be recycled, the metal must be separated from the plastic. Since the plastic will be ‘melted’ onto the key, this will be almost impossible. It would be far too resource-intensive to separate the two components.

So, if you have keys with plastic attached to them and cannot remove them, then your only choice is to add the key to your standard trash.

What Keys Cannot Be Recycled

How Do You Recycle Keys?

Unless you are fortunate, you won’t be able to leave your old keys in the standard recycling by the side of your road. Not that we would recommend this anyway. After all, if the keys still fit a lock, somebody could quickly swipe them from the recycling and use them.

Your only option is to head to the local dump. You will then want to keep an eye out for the area designated for mixed metals. You can put them in this section. Your work will then be done.

When these areas are full, the company carrying out the recycling will collect all this metal and sort through it. This is to separate the metals. This ensures that each type of metal can be recycled separately.

Once the metals have been separated, they will be crushed into smaller pieces. How they do this will be dependent on the metal. Most of it will be crushed up into sheets, while steel will be crushed into cubes. This is based on how much energy it would take to process the metal further.

After this, the metal will be heated to an exceedingly high temperature. The idea is to melt it. Once the metal has been melted, any impurities can be removed.

Before the metal solidifies again, it will be added to various molds. The metal will then solidify in these molds. The recycled metal will be sent to whichever companies want to buy metal.

In the grand scheme, metal is one of the simplest materials to recycle. It takes very little in the way of processing.

Can You Put Them in the Trash?

You can. However, the keys will end up in a landfill like this. In an ideal world, we would try to reduce the number of items we send to landfills. It is harmful to the planet. If something can be recycled, then it should be recycled.

Why Recycle Keys?

Because they can be recycled.

As you may well know, landfills across the United States have started to fill up astonishingly. We should be putting as little into the landfills as we possibly can. Remember, metal doesn’t break down in the same way as other items. So, once the keys are in the ground, they will be there forever. Thankfully, it is unlikely that they will be leaking too many chemicals into the area. This means that they will not have that much of a negative impact.

A small key will not make a difference in the grand scheme. However, it will be good once you start to get into the swing of recycling. Maybe a tiny key is just the start that you need.

Can You Do Anything Else With the Old Keys?

If the key is for a lock, you are still using; you may not need to recycle the keys at all. You may be able to fix your current key. A lot of the time, the metal will get small burrs from use.

This means that the metal gets a bit rougher, so the k, ey doesn’t work the same way it used to. You can attempt to file this metal down or take the key to a locksmith. They may be able to fix the key for you. It certainly beats recycling it.

Some people will make fancy arts and crafts with some old keys. This may be something a little bit difficult to do, but if there is an arts and crafts scene in your area and you have a lot of old metal keys that you are no longer using, you may see some success offering the keys up on the Facebook Marketplace or something like that.

If your keys are a few decades old and have a rather fancy look, they may interest local antique stores. You won’t receive much money for them (if anything), but at least you know that your key will be put to good use at the antique store. They will be able to sell it to somebody that collects old keys.

The Environmental Benefits of Recycling Keys

Recycling keys can have several environmental benefits. Here are a few examples:

  1. Reduction of waste: Keys are made of various materials, including metal, plastic, and rubber. By recycling keys, you can help reduce the amount of these materials in landfills, which can take hundreds of years to break down.
  2. Conservation of resources: Many of the materials used to make keys, such as metal, are non-renewable resources. Recycling keys help to conserve these resources and reduce the need to extract new materials from the earth.
  3. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: The production of new keys requires energy, which often comes from fossil fuels. By recycling keys, you can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with key production.
  4. Protection of ecosystems: Mining and extraction materials used in key production can negatively impact ecosystems, including habitat destruction and pollution. Recycling keys can help to mitigate these impacts.

Recycling keys can help reduce waste, conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect ecosystems.


Keys can be recycled and are one of the easiest items to recycle. It would be best if you took them to the various metals area of your local dump. They will do the rest of the work for you.

Older keys can be “cleaned up” by removing burrs with a file. This will get them smoothly working in the lock again…assuming you still know what lock the key came from.

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