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Creative Ways (You Haven’t Tried Yet!) to Recycle Sharp Sewing Supplies

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!

Why recycle dull sewing 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.

rotary blade for paper cutting

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).

4. Recycle.

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.

Used rotary blades in original caseUsed machine needles in original case

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.

Pill bottle for used sewing pins and needles

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.

60 Comments

Carolyn Riley

Rotary blades, we wrap in a few layers of masking tape and then trash them. needles we put in old film canisters.

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Veronica

Thanks for suggesting more great, safe disposal ideas!

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claire

I use old Tic Tac containers to dispose of needles and pins. Old rotary blades are sharpened. I haven thrown away a rotary blade in 25 years.

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Veronica

Wow! How do you sharpen your rotary blades, Claire? Do you use a professional service or a home sharpening device? I’d love to hear what you have found to work so well.

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Julie Schmidt

I would love to know what device you use for sharpening rottary blades. I am all about reuse, recycle!

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Linda

Claire, I’m with Veronica and Julie!
How do you sharpen your blades and if it’s something to buy, where please!

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Dani

I’ve been doing these things for years, and a bit off topic, I also store tin can lids in a larger can with a plastic lid, and when it’s full, I tape is shut and mark that what is in it, so the people at the recycle centre don’t get injured. 😀

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Veronica

Dani, that’s a great idea, and again, something I had never considered. I usually just try to drop the lid down into the can before I throw it into the recycling, but I’m sure it sometimes falls out. I’ve got a large coffee can that I plan to start using just for this! Thanks.

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Rita

Get a can opener that actually lifts the lid off instead of cutting it. You can use it as a lid to close the can until you use all the contents. The lid can then be safely recycled.

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Colleen

I don’t think the people at the recycling centre will be all that enthusiastic about pulling the tape off your tin. They probably just trash it.

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Nancy miller

Old dull sewing machine needles make for superb nails when hanging pictures or small quilted items! Try it ,better than a nail!

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Veronica

You have got to be kidding?! I will definitely be trying this out soon. Thanks for the tip, Nancy!

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LindaG

While I have heard this old-school tip before, please be aware that sewing needles are not designed to handle the stress of piercing hard materials like plaster walls or the sideways stress of the weight of a picture or wall hanging. They are likely to break, just as they would if they hit a pin while sewing or were pulled sideways by dragging on the fabric feeding through the machine. If you are adverse to disposal, old needles should only be pressed into soft material, like a cork board, and should only be used to hold very light loads like paper.

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Peg Cussen

I have used old needles for hanging things for years and never have had a problem! I prefer them to nails!

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Sue J

Amen. Me too.

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Nancy Miller

Dear Linda, I am not pounding the machine needle into wood, but carefully into plasterboard or plaster, I is a great way to repurpose the needle. Use at your own discretion..this is all about recycling!

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Gay

I also use my used machine needles in place of nails to hang stuff on the wall or on the bulletin board. They are really strong and hold up well, even broken ones – you just don’t have as much to hammer in.. Not sure how much weight it will hold though.

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Debbie J.

I do this also….they make great nails!

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Jess Abbott

I had no idea Veronica! I am so happy you wrote this article I totally learned something today! THANK YOU!!!

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Veronica

Thanks for telling me that, Jess!

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Tammala

I purchased one of the manual rotary blade sharpener’s to extend the life of my rotary blades. When I’m done with them I use an empty parmesan cheese container with the flip top lid on it to dispose of my dull blade or sharps. The lid is taped down and the sharps is written in permanent marker all over the bottle. When it is time to dispose of I will duck tape the whole thing shut. Flip tops make it easy to dispose of the blade or needle with out having to fuss with the lid.

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Veronica

Those containers are a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?! Thanks so much for sharing. I have a feeling I’m going to start saving all kinds of plastic containers to reuse for more than just storing used sewing items.

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suzanne Nelson

i use my sharps container that I use for my needles (diabetic).

As obvious as this is, it took a friend seeing my old container with old blades and sewing needles, to ask why I didn’t use my sharps container that is in the bathroom. Duh!?

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Heather Roberts

I too am a diabetic and I use my sharps container. If on a quilt retreat, the little plastic containers that my test straps come in make an excellent place to store dull or broken needles

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Kate

I am a diabetic too and use my sharps container for broken sewing needles and blades

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Loretta Walker

I have a bunch of old rotary cutting blades. I store them in an old tin can with a very tight lid. These have been resharpened over and over in the past. I cut alot of fabric. I am saving them for a project. I plan on grinding the edges completely dull, glow paint, and set them in small cement shapes. A small colored stone will cover the hole. haha Instant garden decor. …… Or you can paint them a shiny silver after dulling the edges and hang them up in your yard to keep the birds out of your berries.

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Veronica

How resourceful and creative! Thanks for sharing, Loretta.

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Leslie Vann

For old needles &spins, I poke a hole in the lid of an empty Rx bottle. Then I glue the lid on the bottle. Insert old needles etc. Dispose of bottle when full.

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Dawn

I use an old chewing gum container to dispose of my used sewing machine needles or bent pins and needles, i have one sitting beside my sewing machine.

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Mary Lou Batty

I use a small glass jar just a little bigger than the blades to put them in. Holds a lot so you can use it for a long time.

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Cynde

I store them in a gum or mint container then take them to work or the doctor office and dispose in sharp container disposal containters. There is on where I work (not at a medical facility) for people who are diabetic and have to use insulin.

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Stacey Peter

Thanks!
I didn’t do that just now!

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Karla Abernathy

My daughter has Type 1 Diabetes. Before she switched to a pump we used syringes & insulin pens. We stored used syringes & pen needle tips in an empty soda bottle. I would think you could do the same with pins & sewing needles. Those could be recycled when the bottle was full as well as the bottle itself!

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Caroline

“Plus, metal blades, needles, and pins may take decades to decompose in a landfill.”

Metal is never going to decompose in a landfill, or anywhere else. Metal is inorganic and doesn’t break down like organic materials. It may get worn, broken, or ground down, but it’s never going to decompose.

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Mike

Most needles are made of steel which will rust and disintegrate pretty quickly. That said, mining and processing ores into steel is a pretty energy intensive process so the environmentally friendly solution would be to recycle your metal sharps.

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Kelly

How about grinding or filing the blade edges until they’re blunt and use them to make a mobile, chandier, wind chimes, etc. You could paint them, add glitter, rhinestones (or even a few dull/broken pins?), or string mini lights through them to make a unique garland. You could also use them with other small sewing tools and notions (old thimbles, buttons, lace, measuring tape, etc.) to embellish a sewing-themed wreath : ) A more creative crafter could come up with many more such decorative ideas. Have fun!!! P.S. I like to wash out those empty spice bottles and use them as dispensers for glitter or glitter flakes (depending on the size of the holes in the top/cap).

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Kelly

Oops! I meant “chandelier” instead of “chandier” *insert embarrassed blush* : )

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Amber

I use a tic tac container for needles and pins. I take a piece of cardboard and fold it in half to completely cover my used rotary blades, then duct tape all around the edges. My main concern has been it not cutting through the garbage bags and injuring someone. I think I’ll look into a sharpener, I have thought they didn’t work well but reading that others sharpen them makes me think I should try it.
(I love the parmesan cheese container idea, will be doing that from now on!)

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Helen Dunlap

I can’t believe that I have been doing that all along. Then I drop them in my sharps bucket with my insulin syringes. WOW

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Heather Roberts

I too am a diabetic and I use my sharps container. If on a quilt retreat, the little plastic containers that my test strips come in make an excellent place to store dull or broken needles. I also mark one plastic container that the rotary blades come in as “used” for old blades. That way I never get mixed up with which is new and which is old. Have tried one brand of sharpener but it didn’t work well. Would like to know which ones work well

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Julie

My local quilt shop sharpens them for a low price.

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Norma J. Wood

My camera takes the type of film that comes in a little plastic container similar to a medicine bottle. I keep one of those handy to put used needles. It will take a long time to fill it up. Then it will be tossed in the diabetes needle disposable container.

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vicki

I use the little chocolate shaker in the boxes of capacino for old sewing machine needles.

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Angi Barnes

I am a nurse and we used to always recommend diabetics using an old laundry soap container. I also have a metal tin I use for my needles.

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Rebecca Hilkey

I use a pill bottle then pass it on to a friend that has a secure sharps container.

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Vicki

My husband is partially deaf. The hearing aids he uses come with a special cleaning brush that is the same size as a needle. He gives me the old containers and I can safely put the used needles in them until I can dispose of them at my doctors office (sharps container). Although the reused brush container is very much like the container the needles came in, it is a different color so there isn’t any confusion about which needle is new or used.

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Gerry

i purchased a sharps container from my local pharmacy to place my used blades, bent pins and needle rejects. I also bring it to our bee gatherings so others can dispose as well. It came with a shipping container to mail it off for safe disposal.

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A Quilter

I’ve been saving my rotary blades because I hesitate to part with something that can be useful again. I’ve moved around quite a bit the last 5 years so it’s all in storage now but I’m getting a sharpener when I’m finally settled!

As for needles and pins, I’ve been using an old salt shaker. It has 1 hole and it’s just big enough for a machine needle to slip in, without accidentally falling out.

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Joy Butler

You did an awesome job of explaining the proper recycling and disposing of sharp blades and needles. I certainly agree that we should dispose of all sharp items properly as they might be harmful the people or the environment. Your advice of putting them in a container, marking it accordingly will really help. Great tips!

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Clare B

Yes, i use an old vitamin tub for pins/needles etc. Dont need one for rotary cutter blade (yet), so thanks for all the suggestions for when i do! 🙂

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Cheryl Seal

I have used the large prescription bottle idea for years to dispose of old, dull and/or bent needles and pins. I punch a hole into the top of the lid just large enough for the largest pin head to go thru and never have to take the top off the bottle.

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Gail S

I tried clicking on the companies that sharpen rotary cutter blades. One was under construction, and the other link didn’t work – 404 error – site not found.

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WheelyBad

Great tip about putting old needles into a sharps container… I have one here and never considered it. I may have to check if I can as I’m in the UK and I don’t know if it’s a strict “medical waste only” deal but if it’s incinerated it shouldn’t matter! However, I think I may continue with my plastic tub, lid glued on with a hole cut in and recycle them instead. I run rotary blades through used, washed up kitchen foil folded into a long piece or through a knife sharpener, I think crafter’s are super careful about waste, doesn’t matter which craft I’m doing, I save all scraps and offcuts. I donate any fabric, yarn or cardstock that’s past the point I can use it- too small a piece, off cuts of cardstock and papers, odd yarn that is too much for stitch saving but not enough for a garment to schools or day care centres as both are so strapped for cash- creativity is the first to go when money is tight so I always have a scraps sort out every year. If I can’t see me using it, it gets given so local children or adults get the joy of using it.

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Lela McKee Friel

Thank You Veronica for these great tips. I have found that the companies that sharpen used rotary blades do a good job. I have not tried the do it your self sharpeners, so Thank You for the ones you suggested. I always feel guilty when I throw away a bent straight pin or broken sewing machine needle. I really appreciate your thoughts on this topic and for bringing awareness on how we can dispose of and reuse these items.

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Nancy

I have used a pill bottle, that I punched a hole in with a awl, for years to put my needles and pins in. I later take them to recycling. But I have found that sewing machine needles make excellent picture hooks. They enter the wall nicely and have a nice strong shaft.

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CindyBel

I use dull/burred sewing machine needles to hang quilts. They leave tiny holes in wall and don’t damage the quilt.

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Patricia Ashton

Thank you for all the suggestions. Keeping the Mother Earth clean is a priority.

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Angela J Short

Great tips! Thanks everyone!! Have a great day!!

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Julia Kolb

Maybe I am just lucky but my county has a landfill that will take sharps (in sealed containers) and when you bring them a container they will give you a new container. free of charge. This service is free to all county residents. It is amazing how many people are not aware of this service. Check with your county as just throwing them in the trash is not a good idea even if it is sealed.

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Melody

You can actually take your sharps to your physician or dentist’s office. They will normally allow you to drop them into their sharps container. Keep them stored in any of the ways mentioned above until you have an appointment.

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