How can I reuse or recycle plastic cutlery?

Plastic forkWe’ve had an email from Sara R, asking:

What can I do with plastic forks? I always used to carry a proper one in my bag so I didn’t have to pick one up when I got a pasta pot for lunch but now the forks are inside the pot so I can’t refuse them. I’ve now got a stack of little forks that I don’t know what to do with. I reuse or recycle the pot itself but I don’t know about the forks.

Wikipedia informs me that plastic cutlery is usually Polystyrene – type 6 plastic – and that can’t usually be recycled easily so I guess we’re looking at reuses.

I guess they could be melted/moulded into jewellery or some of the other suggestions we had for metal cutlery but any plastic specific ideas?

(Photo by asolario)

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19 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle plastic cutlery?”


  1. Lupa says:

    We go to potlucks a good deal with friends and social groups, and we often volunteer to bring the dishes. Plastic forks are reusable, and it’s less of a loss if they get broken, taken home, or accidentally tossed (as opposed to metal silverware).

  2. Alice says:

    My council doesn’t recycle the kind of plastic the pots are made from either – do check if yours does, ‘cos lots of people seem to think that any solid plastic packaging can be recycled, but in fact we can only recycle 2 kinds here which are not even the most common.

    The pots are easier to reuse though. I’ve used a couple of plastic forks as small props for plants that needed support.

    Ideally, although it does take more time and organisation, you could make your own pasta salads and take them to work etc in a reusable container with the plastic forks you already have. It’s really easy to make and it’d save loads of money, the ones they sell in shops are really expensive!

  3. butterscotch & roses says:

    I also found this option http://www.flickr.com/photos/rakka/375888428/

  4. Al Shaw says:

    I continue to love the creativity of recycle this readers. Great stuff!

    I’m sure we’d all agree that plastic in its many forms is a pain from a recycling point of view. My guess is that we need to tackle it from the supply end first – by persuading manufacturers and retailers to dramatically cut initial use.

    What do you think?

  5. Teresa Wallis says:

    Recycling cutlery is really great and I agree if you’re going to a potluck, reusing the cutlery there would be resourceful. My only concern would be regarding sanitation. I think some people might be hesitant to use utensils that had been previously used but not properly sanitized. Besides washing in hot, soapy water, some sort of sterilization process should be used. I’d probably steam them for three minutes in the microwave like I do my son’s baby bottles. Boiling is definitely out of the question because it would just melt/warp the cutlery.

  6. Alice says:

    Why should plastic cutlery not be as clean as metal cutlery? I just assumed you’d wash up in the normal way with hot water and detergent. Do you normally sterilise all your cutlery?

  7. Adele Jackson says:

    This whole steaming cutlery is just another example of health and safety gone too far. What do you think they do with cutlery in restaurants? They just use hot soapy water and its not a problem.

  8. shawna says:

    Hi Teresa, I’m not sure if your aware of this, but heating plastic releases chemicals into the environment and your food that are not only toxic, but mimic hormones -mostly estrogens. This can disrupt your body’s natural hormones and cause problems. They are also permanent residents in your body. I would strongly advise against ANY heating of plastic -especially for babies (i.e. plastic baby bottles)

  9. Jessie says:

    I always keep and reuse things like plastic cutlery and plastic straws. I wash them after being used and keep them in my cutlery drawer with all my “real” silverware.

  10. Jessie says:

    ^ Also, I just wash them normally with dish-soap and water!

  11. go green says:

    I try to persuade my office (several hundred people) to switch from using plastic plates and cutlery to using regular stonware plates and metal cutlery.

    Does anybody know how to calculate a business case for this and quantify the environmental impact?

    verysoon@writeme.com

  12. Elliott says:

    use bamboo utensils instead

  13. Pat says:

    They would be useful for marking rows in a garden. I use them for stirring my henna hair dye, then toss them when finished. Scraping pet food out of the tins.

  14. Olly says:

    Are there any good / cost effective recyclable cutlery products out there instead of the common wooden ones?!

    boardin182@hotmail.com

  15. Big Blue says:

    Most people use plastic forks and spoons for convenience or because if you get take out they throw them in without asking. If you work in a restaurant you could ask customers if they want them before putting them in the bag. I work in a school and bring in metal cutlery to our staff room that can be washed and reused. It usually disappears after two or three months and then I bring in some more. I don’t know if it is going home or to teacher’s classrooms. I just consider it my little contribution. I get the forks for 25 cents/each at the local thrift store.

  16. Swords says:

    I’m into cutlery business.. I seem to have problem finding top quality cutlery products. Any ideas?

  17. Sonya says:

    I would even switch to biodegradable utensils that are sold online easily. That way, you won’t have to feel guilty because it will hopefully decompose into the earth safely. maybe even convincing local businesses to switch would be helpful

  18. Xandra says:

    Here’s an artist who makes art out of plastic cutlery and other stuff.

    http://www.sayakaganz.com/Emergence.html



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