About five years ago I bought myself a new set of chefs’ knives. Then it occurred to me that there might be a right or wrong way to throw my old knives away. Should I chuck them in the bin? Hand them in the police? What if I’m ‘caught’ with a carload of knives on my way to the local tip?
After some extensive research (including asking the police), I’ve found the best legal and safe way to dispose of old kitchen knives is to securely wrap them and put them in the bin. More information on this and other options are listed below:
Can you put old kitchen knives in the bin? is it safe and legal?
It is legal to put old knives in your bin (usually the wheelie bin or non-recyclable section) and, in fact, this is what the police advise you to do. However, it’s also down to you to make sure that getting rid of your old knives in a bin is done in a safe way.
The majority of waste collections are automated these days, so refuse collectors don’t handle the waste directly. The bins are loaded onto a machine, which then empties them, and the sorting and disposal at the other side is also usually machine-driven and automated too.
The risk of someone getting cut or injured from handling a bin bag with a knife or blade inside it therefore is a lot lower than it used to be. That said, it’s better to be safe than sorry in case someone does directly handle the bag that your knives are in.
How to get rid of old knives
First decide if you really want to throw your old kitchen knives away because you might want to consider other options such as donating or selling them, listed towards the end of this article.
If you want to go ahead and throw your old kitchen knives in the bin, the safest option of all is to first blunt and fold the knife’s edge so that it’s no longer sharp. You can do this using a domestic hammer, tapping along the blade to get rid of the knife edge.
This is unnecessary in many cases, unless you’ve kept your knives in super sharp condition. If the knife is pretty blunt anyway, proceed to wrap it up.
Take a piece of sturdy cardboard and cut it out to a rectangle twice as big as the knife blade. Place the knife inside and fold the cardboard in half around the blade (with the blade facing inward). Make sure no part of the blade edge is sticking out. Use strong parcel tape or similar to tape around the cardboard and knife handle.
For extra safety, you can also bubble wrap it or put the wrapped knife in an old padded envelope. If you can, write something like “Caution: sharp blade” on the package. Then throw it in the non-recyclable section of your bin.
Should I drop off my old kitchen knives at a police station?
This is a popular suggestion as a way of getting rid of old knives but there’s no need to go to the police. I asked several UK police constabularies to make sure, and their answer was the same: yes, they will take your knives if you really want to hand them in, but it’s wholly unnecessary – just put them safely in the bin as detailed above.
Other knives are a different matter, though. If the old knife you’re disposing of is not a standard chef or kitchen knife but something more substantial such as a butcher’s tool, meat machete, cleaver or similar then it may be best to either take it to your local police station or search to see if there’s a knife amnesty bin in your area.
There are websites listing knife amnesty bin locations such as Word 4 Weapons. These are aimed at illegal street knives but they’re also a good, safe place to legally and safely get rid of old, big knives. It’s fine to put large kitchen knives in them if it’s easier to do so.
Are kitchen knives recyclable?
This depends on the metal they’re made from and the facilities available at your local waste disposal centre. If they’re a common metal like steel then you can usually throw them in the ‘scrap metal’ section at the local tip or recycling centre, but it may be wise to blunt the blade first.
Click here to check where your local recycling centre is, so you can call and ask.
Can I carry a kitchen knife on the street, e.g. on the way to the recycling centre or to donate it?
Whether you’re carrying chefs’ or kitchen knives on your person, or in your car on your way to disposing of them (or on your way back from buying new ones!), you’ll need to wrap the knives up securely.
It’s legal to carry a kitchen knife or have a knife on you “for good reason”. Use a common-sense approach. Carrying any sort of large unwrapped blade in your hand, in your pocket or in an easy-access place (e.g. a shoulder bag) is frowned upon and could result in you being arrested for the unlawful possession of a weapon.
Carrying a knife well packaged and in a secure way where it’s obvious you do not intend to use it as a weapon is perfectly acceptable if you have a good reason – be aware you may need to prove that reason.
If you’ve just bought the knives, leave them in their packaging and keep the receipt. If you’re on your way to a charity shop, recycling centre or other place where you intend to donate or get rid of the knives, print out any evidence of your intent.
This could include correspondence relating to the charity donation, information about your local recycling centre, or the location of a knife amnesty bin.
It may also be a good idea to call your destination beforehand so that you have displayed your intention on what you’re doing with the knives, should this be checked.
Most people carrying knives somewhere for disposal encounter no problems, but the hassle and legality of proving your ‘good reason’ to be carrying them is why it’s usually much easier to wrap and throw knives in the bin, as described above.
Where to donate old kitchen or chefs’ knives
If you’re mindful of trying to reuse and recycle where possible, you could also consider donating your knives (if in good, useable condition), to a good cause. Some examples of this include:
- A local homeless shelter or soup kitchen where food is prepared
- A local culinary or food technology college or school
- A Chef’s apprenticeship scheme
If they are particularly good quality, vintage or valuable knives, you could also consign them for auction – check with your local auctioneer to see if they will take them. You could make a profit from them or donate the proceeds. I occasionally visit auction houses and have seen professional-grade sets of knives sold from time to time.
Do charity shops take kitchen knives?
This depends on the sort of knife and the policy of the individual charity shop. Some, for example, may take a set of chefs’ knives if they’re in a display or carry case, or are otherwise safely re-saleable.
Many charity shops refuse to take any kind of knife, for their staff’s safety and to avoid the potential of selling knives to underage people. Do check beforehand with your local charity shop, because if you simply turn up or donate items they can’t sell, it may defeat the purpose by costing them money to dispose of them.
I checked on several popular charity shop websites and many of them say that you should call or email them first. It may be easier to email a photo of your knives beforehand as ask if they’re interested. Local and independent shops that aren’t part of a chain may have a shop-by-shop policy, so please check with them before you donate.
Overall, disposing of old kitchen and chefs’ knives is easier than many think it is, thanks to advanced waste collection technologies allowing us to throw them in the bin. If you would rather they were re-used or recycled, undertaking the due diligence and care above will ensure a trouble-free journey when you give your knives a new home.