We all have that one set of mystery keys in our junk drawer or deep in the pocket of an old coat whose purpose is completely unknown.

While it may seem like these old keys are destined to belong to us forever, there are ways to dispose of them.

In this article, we take a look at the proper way to dispose of old keys and whether or not they can simply be thrown in the garbage.


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1. Metal Recycling

Keys are typically made from metal, which makes them easy to recycle. Collect your old keys and take them to your local metal recycling facility.

Many scrap metal yards will accept keys, and you can earn a little money by selling them as scrap metal.

By recycling your old keys, you are helping to conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Metal recycling is an essential part of creating a sustainable future. Recycling metal helps reduce the need for mining and manufacturing new materials, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, recycling metal conserves up to 92% of the energy used in the primary production process.

Therefore, recycling your old keys is a small yet impactful action that contributes to a more sustainable future.

2. Recycle Them

While throwing your old keys in the garbage is not the proper way to dispose of them, they can in fact be recycled.

However, recycling your old keys isn’t as simple as throwing them in your recycling bin outside. tells us what the proper protocol is for recycling your old keys:

“Luckily, keys can be recycled at most recycling centers in the mixed metals bin. Make sure you take off any rubber edging or stickers so the facility can melt them down and reuse the metal.

Call your local recycling center or look up their requirements online to be sure they accept metals.”

3. Donate Keys to Charity

Surprisingly enough, old keys can be donated to charity! Some charitable organizations accept old keys in order to recycle them and use the proceeds to aid in their organization’s mission.

Recycle Nation gives us more information on charities that accept your old keys:

“Key for Hope raises money for organizations working to end hunger. Keys end up at their recycling facility in Massachusetts, but they can give the money to the organization of your choice anywhere in the country.

Key for Hope also takes other small metal items such as padlocks. Keys for Kids has several programs that use keys as fundraisers.

Students Recycling Keys encourages young people to collect keys to raise money for scholarships for their fellow students, while Tickets for Kids buys tickets to sporting events for families that could not otherwise afford to go.”

4. Sell Them And Make Some Cash

Did you know that you can sell your old keys for cash? Of course, there is a catch!

Unless it happens to be rare or an antique, nobody’s going to want to buy the type of key that you can simply make a copy of with a machine.

Conserve Energy Future explains why some old keys can be sold, but usually only to collectors and antique stores:

“If the idea of making some cash from selling your old things sounds good to you, then you are good to go. For your keys, you can sell them out and make money.

However, like gifting your old keys, you have to ensure they are the very rare types of keys when selling.  Always understand that the older and non-common your keys, the more money you would get.”

5. Donate to a Thrift Store

If your keys are still in good condition and someone else could use them, consider donating them to a local thrift store. Keys are often needed for lockers, filing cabinets, and musical instruments.

Call local thrift stores to see if they accept key donations, or check with schools, community centers, or after-school programs to see if they could use them.

Donating your old keys is an excellent way to give them a new lease on life while helping your local community.

Thrift stores play a crucial role in the circular economy as they offer an outlet for no longer wanted or needed items.

When you donate your old keys to a thrift store, you are helping to reduce waste by providing an item that someone else can use.

6. Upcycle

If you feel creative, try upcycling your old keys into something new and valuable. For example, you could turn them into jewelry, a wind chime, or even a unique piece of home decor.

A quick search online will yield plenty of ideas for upcycling old keys, so get creative and see what you can develop.

Upcycling is a great way to give old items a new purpose and keep them out of landfills.

When you upcycle your old keys, you are not only reducing waste, but you are also creating something unique and personal.

Upcycling can be a fun and creative process that allows you to express your personality and style.

7. Contact Your Local Recycling Program

Check with your local recycling program if you need help recycling your old keys. Many cities and towns have recycling programs that accept various materials, including keys.

They may have specific instructions on preparing your keys for recycling, so follow their guidelines.

Local recycling programs are an essential part of creating a more sustainable future. Recycling programs help to reduce waste and conserve resources by providing outlets for materials that can be recycled.

When you participate in your local recycling program, you are helping to support a system that reduces waste and protects the environment.

It’s important to properly recycle or dispose of old keys to prevent them from ending up in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.

By recycling your old keys, you are helping to conserve natural resources and reduce waste.

Benefits of Properly Disposing of the Old Keys

Once upon a time, Sarah had a box full of old keys she didn’t know what to do with.

She thought about throwing them in the trash, but then she remembered hearing about the importance of properly disposing of old keys.

She did some research and discovered that there are many benefits to recycling old keys.

The first benefit she learned about was that recycling keys helps to conserve natural resources. When old keys are recycled, the metal they contain can be melted down and used to make new or metal products.

This reduces the need for mining contemporary metals from the earth, which can be destructive to the environment. Sarah did her part to protect the planet by recycling her old keys.

The second benefit Sarah learned about was that properly disposing of old keys can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

When new keys are produced, they require energy to mine, refine, and transport the raw materials. This process generates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

By recycling her old keys, Sarah was helping to reduce the demand for new key production, reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated.

The third benefit Sarah learned about was that recycling keys helps to reduce waste. When keys are thrown in the trash, they can end up in landfills, which can take hundreds of years to decompose.

This takes up valuable space in the dump and can release harmful chemicals into the environment.

By recycling her old keys, Sarah kept them out of the landfill and reduced the amount of waste that ended up there.

As Sarah thought more about the benefits of properly disposing of old keys, she realized that her actions could make a real difference.

She took her box of old keys to a local metal recycling facility and was pleased to learn that they would accept them. She felt good knowing she was doing her part to protect the environment and create a more sustainable future.

In the end, Sarah realized that properly disposing of old keys suits the environment and benefits people. By reducing the demand for new key production, recycling old keys help to conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Keeping old keys out of landfill helps to reduce waste and protect the environment. And by properly disposing of her old keys, Sarah was positively impacting the planet and contributing to a more sustainable future for us all.

The Bottom Line

Disposing of your old keys is a simple yet effective way to reduce waste and help the environment.

Whether you recycle them at a metal recycling facility, donate them to a thrift store, upcycle them into something new, or contact your local recycling program, your actions make a difference.

By recycling your old keys, you are helping to conserve natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more sustainable future. 


Can you throw the keys in the bin?

No, old keys should not be thrown in the bin. They can be recycled or properly disposed of through metal recycling facilities or local recycling programs.

What can you do with old key fobs?

Old key fobs can be recycled at a metal recycling facility or repurposed as a decorative element for crafts or jewelry.

Can keys get flushed down the toilet?

No, keys should not be flushed down the toilet as they can cause blockages in the plumbing system. They should be properly disposed of through recycling or donation.

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