At some point, we all end up with glassware and dishes we have no use for. Some break, some get old, and in other cases, a change in your taste and needs will render some obsolete.
While some curbside recycling programs accept ceramics and other non-container glass for recycling, most do not.
This does not, however, mean that we should neglect our sustainability responsibilities when dealing with ceramic plates.
There are safer methods for getting rid of unwanted ceramics that do not involve them ending up in landfills.
Why Don’t Most Recycling Centers Accept Ceramics?
Most curbside recycling programs accept glassware but draw the line when it comes to ceramics.
Centers don’t accept this type of material because when ceramics such as plates and coffee mugs are present in a batch of recyclables, they will compromise the overall quality of the recycled products, essentially weakening them.
Sneaking your broken ceramic plates in with other glass wastes could lead to significant losses to your local recycling plant, especially if they are not equipped to process them.
Therefore, with ceramic plates, you have four options:
- Take them for professional recycling
- Donate those that are still usable
- Organize a garage sale or exchange
- Upcycle, reuse, or repurpose them
1. Professional Recycling
If your local recycling plant does not accept ceramics, you can go the extra mile and search for other plants, especially in your nearest city.
You will find that most cities will have commercial recycling centers equipped to process material that normal municipal recycling programs don’t.
You can either scan your phone book listing for local recycling centers or visit resourceful websites such as Recycle Nation.
These websites offer a search function that can help you identify and track down ideal recycling and waste disposal facilities.
To make your search easier, look for recycling plants that accept common household fixtures like ceramic tiles, sinks, and toilets. These are most likely to get your ceramic plates off your hands.
However, inquire first since not all recyclers equipped to handle construction ceramics will accept your kitchenware.
Especially when dealing with broken items, always bundle the ceramics in newsprint or foam wrap for your safety and those at the facility.
If accepted in a recycling facility, your ceramic plates will be ground and converted into aggregate material to be used in insulation projects, drainage, paving, and other applications.
2. Donate Your Ceramics to Friends, Relatives and Thrift Shops
Since one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, don’t be too quick to throw away usable items that you no longer need.
Let your friends, relatives, and even neighbors take a look at your collection before you decide to toss them.
Taking your unwanted ceramic plates to a thrift shop is the next best option – maybe even better than taking them for recycling.
Thrift shops accept clothes and other second-hand household items from donors and after selling them, the proceeds are usually donated to charity organizations.
Not only are you getting rid of unwanted ceramics and helping people in need, but you’re contributing towards a sustainable environment.
Ideally, your ceramics should be at least usable for the thrift store to accept them.
Unusable items will most likely end up in landfills, defeating the purpose of you taking them there in the first place.
Don’t use your local second hand store as a dumping ground for your trash.
In some cases, thrift stores might still accept items that are lightly worn or chipped.
3. Organize a Garage Sale or Exchange
If you have lots of usable ceramic plates and other items that you want to dispose of and still get some money in return, a garage sale is a great option.
Inform your neighbors in advance and invite them to check out your inventory for items that could be of value to them.
Remember to set the price to at least 10% less than the retail value, especially if your ceramics are not in the best condition.
4. Upcycling, Reusing or Repurposing Your Ceramic
If your ceramic plates are too damaged for garage sales or thrift stores, consider upcycling them to give them another purpose.
With just a little craftiness, there is no limit to the ways you can give your unwanted ceramics a second life.
Some popular upcycling ideas include:
DIY Design Projects
Ceramic plates come in an array of designs and embellishments, making them perfect for various creative design projects at home.
- Assemble broken shards of ceramic on a plain surface to create a multicolored mosaic to add some life to bare walls.
- Place the broken ceramic pieces in your flower vase in the place of marbles, stones and other objects to create a mosaic flower vase
- Assemble and glue small pieces around plain mirrors and picture frames to make them more vibrant.
- Use the partially cracked or broken plates to store small items such as pens, craft supplies and paper clips.
- Glue your broken ceramic pieces onto your tabletop for a cool, mosaic finish. Mosaic tables usually cause a lot in stores, but you can easily create yours at home. Check out this tutorial if unsure where to start.
If your heirloom ceramic plate breaks, turning the pieces into necklace pendants helps you retain their sentimental value without having to live with unusable broken kitchenware.
If you don’t know where to begin, consider sending them to a company like The Broken Plate Co., where they will be crafted into versatile, inspired art and jewelry pieces.
Display Your Prized Plates
Chipped plates may not be safe for regular use anymore, but if your ceramic wares hold sentimental value, consider putting them on display as part of your decor.
Showcase your ceramic pieces with other well-loved heirlooms like an antique rolling pin.
By putting them on display, you will be less likely to damage them or throw them out accidentally, ensuring they are passed to the next generation.
Home Improvement Projects
You can also handle the ceramics like they would have done in recycling centers.
Collect all the ceramic plates together with other glass and porcelain material lying around in your home and crush them until they are of a uniform size.
You can then use the ground pieces for home improvement projects such as promoting drainage in holes dug for plants or posts and for mixing gravel.
Other creative ways you could use your ceramic plates for home improvement include using the chipped plates as mosaic stepping stones or edging for your garden.
When handling shards of broken ceramics, ensure you protect yourself from injury by wearing the appropriate hand and face gear.
A pair of safety gloves and eye protection will protect you from the sharp pieces.
Also read: Paper Plates vs. Washing Dishes
Why Should you Avoid Dumping Ceramics in Landfills?
Although they are made from naturally occurring clay, ceramics have both direct and indirect environmental impacts when used irresponsibly.
The process of manufacturing ceramics involves firing, using up a lot of energy obtained from gas, electricity, or other primitive methods like wood firing.
Therefore, dumping ceramics that could be recycled or reused increases the need for more to be produced, leading to more energy consumption than necessary.
The firing process also emits gasses and fumes including black carbon, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxides, carbon monoxide, and soot.
The release of these gases into the atmosphere contributes to irreversible damage to the ozone layer, causing the climate to worsen.
During the glazing process, chemical dyes and solvents are used.
Dumping ceramics into landfills will lead to these chemicals leaching out into the soil and water bodies, where they will cause harm to plants and other living organisms, including humans.
The firing and glazing process also increases the time it takes for ceramics to biodegrade.
As a result, ceramics dumped in landfills not only release harmful chemicals into the environment but will also be a nuisance for farmers and construction workers.
Also read: Are Paper Plates Bad for the Environment?
Final Thoughts on Disposing Ceramic Plates
If your only option is the landfill, you will need to put your ceramics in the trash together with other waste items.
Ensure you place your chipped materials in separate, labeled bags and that all the sharp edges are cushioned for the safety of your sanitation workers.
Remember, do not put your ceramics in the recycling bin as they are not processed by most recycling plants and might end up in landfills.
The ideal way to dispose of your ceramic items is to recycle, reuse or repurpose them.
Finding an alternative use for ceramics instead of dumping them in landfills will save you from unnecessary costs and lower your environmental footprint, helping to make the world a cleaner and safer place for everyone.
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