Are Crock-Pots Recyclable? (Not curbside – here’s what to do)


It’s inevitable: everything breaks at some point. And while most Crock-Pots last decades, what do you do when yours breaks? Are Crock-Pots recyclable?

Here’s what I know from looking into it:

Neither the ceramic insert of a Crock-Pot nor the metal base can be recycled curbside. Ceramics that get recycled with glass make for a structurally weakened new product. And the metal base has too many electronic components to be recycled curbside.

But, there are other things you can do with it other than throwing it away completely.

We all want to do our part for the environment, so when the time comes to dispose of these things, you may be wondering what to do with it.

There are actually a few places you can take a broken Crock-Pot instead of throwing away. 

Let’s take a closer look at this topic together.

Can ceramics go in the recycling bin?

Ceramics cannot go into the recycling bin. The main reason for this is because ceramics cannot be broken down as completely as glass. And when they are reshaped into new products they lack the strength of the original ceramic.

What does this mean for Crock-Pots? Well, the main pot part that goes into the electric heating element is more than likely ceramic.

 It cannot be melted down the same way glass can. Heavier machinery is necessary to break down ceramic into small enough pieces to be repurposed into something new.

According to Waste Management, the presence of ceramics in your typical recyclable glass can also weaken the recycled product.

Another reason ceramics aren’t commonly accepted in the municipal recycling bin is that broken pieces pose a danger to workers.

It’s the same reason broken glass is not taken. If a worker reaches into the bin without looking or makes a mistake when preparing materials for recycling, they can easily be cut by the sharp edges of broken pieces.

For ease of reference, the most commonly accepted recyclable materials include:

  • Cardboard
  • Batteries
  • Plastic
  • Metal
  • Paper
  • Glass (that isn’t broken or heat-treated)

Can you fix a cracked Crock-Pot?

Crock-Pots that have pieces that have broken off cannot really be fixed. And Cracks that penetrate through the entire base or side of the pot are hard to fix as well. While it could be possible to super glue broken pieces, the ceramic insert would no longer be food-safe.

One of the most common reasons Crock Pots need to be disposed of is because they have cracked.

They are generally pretty sturdy appliances, but they aren’t invincible. I have a recent article that gets into all of the most common reasons a Crock-Pot may crack, including the 1 thing I bet you are currently doing with yours.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

So, what happens if you crack your Crock-Pot in one of these ways? Is there a way to salvage it so you can continue to use it?

Well, of course, it depends on how bad the crack is. Is it only one minor surface crack? Does it have multiple cracks that branch out from a central break that causes the vessel to leak? Or did a piece break off altogether?

There aren’t any glues out there that can hold it together while remaining food safe.

They will slowly leak over time, which can also affect the heating element or electric part of the appliance if liquid gets into it.

However, there may be some hope if you only have a surface crack.

Some people have found success with an old remedy: hot milk. If the crock pot’s damage is only a surface crack, hot milk can fill the crack and create a bond that will last for a considerable length of time.

What are some new uses for old Crock-Pots?

If the heating element went bad in an old Crock-Pot, but the ceramic pot is still in great condition, there are some great ways you can repurpose that pot:

  • Planters for then
  • Serving dish
  • Cooking dish (in the conventional oven) – Just avoid using the lid in the oven as it likely is not oven-safe
  • Storage container
  • Making kombucha or doing other fermentations

If the pot is cracked or broken, you can still find uses for it in a crafty way.

For example, if it just has a chip broken off and the heating element still works, you could use it for making:

  • Candles
  • Soap
  • Melting down old crayons into fun shapes

Or just break it down into smaller pieces and use them for mosaics or other projects that would usually use ceramic tiles.

Can you replace the heating element in a Crock-Pot?

A Crock Pot’s heating element can either be repaired or replaced depending on the extent of its damage. However, you may find it cheaper and more convenient to simply buy a new one.

But searching on Crock-Pot’s official parts website, I was unable to locate any heating elements for any Crock-Pot. So if you’re set on replacing the heating element, not only will you have to have some DIY knowledge, but you’ll have to scour crusty old appliance parts shops in your town.

Again, given new Crock-Pots can be had for as little as $20, I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that.

If your Crock-Pot isn’t cracked but has a heating element that has stopped working, there is a possibility that you can get it repaired and in proper working condition again.

You will want to start by doing a bit of troubleshooting to determine which piece – or pieces – aren’t working properly.

  1. Check the circuit board to determine if it is working properly
  2. It may be the switch that needs replacing if the circuit board is working properly
  3. If the circuit board or controls are broken, they will need to be replaced
  4. If the slow cooker isn’t heating, but the heating element works, it may need a new thermal fuse
  5. The probe, which detects your meat’s temperature, may need to be replaced if it isn’t reading correctly
  6. If everything else checks out and the unit is not heating, the heating element may need to be replaced

What’s the best way to dispose of a slow cooker?

You can dispose of the metal base of a Crock-Pot at Best Buy in their electronic recycling bins just inside the front doors. If the ceramic insert is not chipped or broken, your local thrift shop will probably accept that by itself for those looking for replacement inserts.

Most would recommend just throwing your old, slow cooker into the regular garbage as this is the easiest way to dispose of it.

Even though ceramics aren’t usually accepted in your curbside recycling bin, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t recyclable.

There are other ways for you to dispose of your slow cooker in an environmentally friendly way.

Some places will recycle it by crushing it to use for drainage systems or rock base for driveways. The edges of broken pieces can also be used as gravel.

Thrift shops aren’t completely out of the question either, even if the Crock-Pot is broken. Call around to your local thrift stores and let them know you are looking to donate a broken or cracked Crock-Pot.

Some people will buy it for parts to fix the heating element or use the ceramic part for other projects.

You just don’t want to donate it blindly to a place that won’t try to resell it. Some may just throw it in the garbage after donation if you don’t inform them first.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article answers all of your questions about Crock Pots and what to do when they break.

Even though most municipal recycling programs don’t accept them, don’t fret. You can still positively impact the environment by simply not throwing them out with the garbage.

There are still places you can take them to be recycled. You can even repurpose them yourself at home if you’re feeling creative and crafty. There are so many possibilities.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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