Box cutters are great if you need to recycle a large amount of cardboard. With their easy-to-grip handle and sharp razor blade, they make breaking down boxes a breeze. They are also great for cutting through pallet strapping, carpet, electrical cords, fabric and many other materials.
Recycling box cutters and their blades is not quite as easy. The sharp razor blades that are so good at cutting through paper and plastic are also quite dangerous in a trash can or recycling bin. You will need to take a few extra steps to recycle your box cutters and blades.
What are box cutters and blades made of?
Box cutters can be made of metal or plastic. You can buy very small box cutters that slip in your pocket and are good for projects like cutting a few wires or plastic containers. They typically contain only one blade.
There are also larger, heavier duty box cutters that are better for serious projects. They may contain more than one blade, which makes it very easy to switch the blade when you need to.
Box cutters are known as Stanley knives in the United Kingdom and many other countries (a nod to the popular box cutter manufacturer). In the United States, they are also called utility knives, safety knives, safety cutters, carpet knives, pen knives and hook knives.
Box cutters come with replaceable blades so you can swap them out when they begin to get dull. The blades are typically made of metal. However, you can also purchase box cutters with ceramic blades. The advantage of ceramic box cutter blades is that they are stronger, last longer, will not rust and do not create sparks.
Knives have been around for centuries, but the box cutter has its original in a very special type of knife: the X-Acto knife. It was first invented in 1930 by a Polish immigrant named Sundel Doniger
. While the X-Acto knife was great for cutting through balsa wood for model airplanes and completing other craft projects, people also discovered it was handy for slicing the tape on cardboard boxes. More specialized products quickly began to emerge.
Box cutters are great multi-purpose tools to have around the home. Popular Mechanics lists them as one of seven must-have knives
that every homeowner should purchase. They are also a vital tool for builders, electricians, recyclers, warehouse workers and people in many other trades.
The sharp blades in box cutters make them so dangerous that some communities have made it illegal to carry them. In Philadelphia and New York, retailers and individuals cannot sell box cutters to people under 18 years old. New York bans people under 22 from carrying box cutters into schools and prohibits people under 21 from toting them around in public.
Why is it important to recycle box cutters?
Box cutters can also be dangerous to recyclers and sanitation workers. If the blades are left sticking out of a box cutter or are simply thrown in a recycling bin, they can cause serious cuts. Make sure you dispose of box cutters responsibly even if you decide not to recycle them.
How to recycle box cutters
Plastic box cutters cannot be recycled. Plan to place them in your trash can when you are finished with them.
Metal box cutters with all the blades removed can probably go in the metal recycling bin. Since most curbside recycling programs do not accept scrap metal at the curb, you will need to take unwanted box cutters to your local recycling center.
If you have more box cutters than you need at home, or your business decides to upgrade its box cutters and get rid of old ones, look into donating the tools to someone who might need them. Unyeway Incorporated
in California, which provides jobs and job training opportunities to people with disabilities, includes box cutters on its wish list of donated items. A local building supply resale center may also be interested in box cutters.
How to recycle box cutter blades and other razor blades
Metal box cutter blades are easier to recycle than box cutters themselves. Several companies, including Stanley, Olfa and Uline, sell blade disposal boxes. The small containers have a small slit for inserting blades but are otherwise completely sealed.
When the boxes are full, you can recycle it and the blades. If the box is metal, it can be placed in the metal bin at your local recycling center as long as you seal it well. Manufacturers may also be willing to take the boxes back and recycle both the blades and containers.
If you end up buying a blade recycling box, think about other things you can put in it. Razor blades, shaving blades and other small metal blades can also go in blade disposal boxes.
The biggest downside to ceramic box cutter blades is that they cannot be recycled. However, since they last so much longer than metal blades, it may be worth investing in them. Reuse or using something for a long period of time is always better than recycling. To dispose of ceramic blades, securely wrap them in duct tape or something similar so the sharp blade cannot injure the person who picks up your garbage.
How to sharpen box cutter blades
Speaking of reuse being a higher use than recycling, it is possible to sharpen metal box cutter blades so you can keep using them over and over. This YouTube video
describes how to remove nicks as well as sharpening the blade. Several other videos and forums online offer similar advice.