I like to think that I’m an Earth-conscious person who makes every attempt to recycle and reuse. But for some unknown reason, until recently, I never gave any thought to just tossing a dull rotary blade, sewing machine needle or straight pin directly into the trash.
After hearing some ideas for ways to safely dispose of these items, I decided to do a little research and come up with my own tips for recycling and disposing of used rotary blades, sewing needles and other sharp supplies!
You may be thinking to yourself, "Hey, what's the big deal? These items are dull or broken." But just like unprotected syringes, sewing supplies such as rotary blades, needles and pins that are not properly disposed of in the trash are still sharp and can accidentally cut, prick or scratch a person or animal if they cut through the bag.
Improperly disposed of rotary blades have even been know to cause damage to the mechanical gears inside garbage trucks! Plus, metal blades, needles, and pins may take decades to decompose in a landfill.
So, what can you do to prevent these used sewing items from being unsafely tossed into the trash or wasting valuable precious metal resources?
Here are some key tips on how to safely dispose of or recycle used rotary cutting blades, sewing needles and pins.
1. Reuse dull rotary cutting blades to cut paper.
Designate a second rotary cutting tool for paper only by marking it on the handle in marker. Use new, sharp blades on a separate cutter for fabrics, and when the blade dulls, switch the dull blade to the paper cutter and recycle or properly dispose of the dullest blade.
2. Purchase a rotary blade sharpener.
Use a rotary blade sharpener to give dull blades a like new edge. There are several sharpeners on the market with varying reviews, but if you frequently have to change out blades, this option might be the most cost effective since the sharpeners are reasonably priced. TrueCut offers two styles of sharpener — one manual and one power operated — and Colonial offers the Turn Sharp manual sharpener.
3. Have a professional resharpen dull rotary blades.
Other sharpening options include mailing your used rotary blades to a business that specializes in sharpening scissors and blades. Two such shops are Just Wright Sharpening, which trades you a newly sharpened blade for your dull used rotary blade, and L.P. Sharp Company, which replaces your used blades with new rotary blades. Both businesses charge a fee plus shipping to them (both offer free return shipping with a minimum order).
Take used rotary blades, sewing machine needles and straight pins to your local recycling center or to a scrap metal business. Be sure to call first to make sure your facility will accept these items. Read my suggestions below for ways to safely store these items until you take them to be recycled.
5. Trash them.
As a last resort, safely store and dispose of rotary blades, machine needles and pins in a container that prevents these items from becoming loose in the trash, and then place the container in the garbage. Read on for some safe safe storage ideas.
How to store sharp items before throwing them away
So you've done everything possible to use and reuse your rotary blades, machine needles and pins, and now it's time to either send them to be recycled or throw them in the trash. Rather than dealing with just a single item at a time, below are several ways you can store multiple items safely until the container is full.
Reuse the container it came in.
For rotary blades or machine needles, you can store used, dull items in one of the plastic containers the blades or needles originally came in. Just mark the container as "Used" or "Old" so as to not confuse those with your new, sharp ones!
Reuse a large, old pill bottle.
Sometimes prescription medications come in large pill bottles with a child-safety cap. Once you've taken all the medication, remove all stickers and labels and thoroughly wash and dry the bottle. Place a new sticker on the bottle or simply write on it with a marker to designate it as "Used" for bent, broken or dull needles and pins. If it's big enough, you can even use it for dull rotary blades. If you don't have a pill bottle large enough, ask your pharmacist for one!
Reuse a spice container.
Have an empty spice container with a flip-top lid? If so, use it to dispose of those bent, broken and dull needles and pins. These are great for storing and sorting other sewing items as well (like buttons).
Reuse a disinfecting wipe container.
Rinse and dry out a plastic disinfecting wipe container with a snap-shut lid. Most have a slit opening already cut that makes it easy and convenient for you to pop in those worn out needles, pins and blades (when the slit is large enough). Place a label on the outside of the container that indicates its new contents so you or someone else won't be surprised!
Reuse a mint or gum tin.
Several brands of mints and gum come in both metal and plastic tins that have a semi-circular tab that lifts up on the lid. These openings are typically fairly wide and make it safe and easy to drop in a used rotary blade or bad needles and pins.
Once you fill up one of the containers with used rotary blades and sewing needles, tape the lid shut with duck tape or packing tape and safely recycle it or place it in the trash.
Have a different method for safely recycling or disposing of rotary blades or needles? I'd love for you to share it in a comment below!
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2015 and was updated in April 2018.