There are so many things that can right at Thanksgiving. The turkey turns out perfect. The cranberries and pumpkin pie are scrumptious. Everyone in the family gets along. Your favorite football team wins, and you take a long nap after celebrating their victory.
Then there are all things that can go wrong at Thanksgiving. The rice for the stuffing sits on a red-hot burner for too long and ruins your favorite metal pan. Things get rowdy at the kids table and someone breaks a plate or table decoration. There are so many gravy stains on the tablecloth you will never be able to use it again.
How can you recycle common Thanksgiving items? We review good ways to recycle or reuse things like cooking pans and utensils, tablecloths, decorations and ceramic plates.
How to recycle cooking pans and utensils
If your metal pans have burned-on food that will not come off, try this trick: Add a little water and white vinegar to the pot and bring it to a boil. Remove it from the heat and add some baking soda. Let is sit for a while, then pour out the water and scrub the pan as soon as it is cool enough to handle. You can use some extra baking soda in the scrubbing process.
If the food still will not come unstuck, you can take it to your local recycling center and place it in their metal recycling bins. Just make sure you get it into the correct bin for steel, aluminum or copper. To determine if a pan is aluminum or steel, hold a magnet to it. The magnet will stick to the steel, which is a ferrous or iron-containing metal, but will not stick to the aluminum. You should be able to distinguish a copper pan by its appearance.
Glass cooking pans cannot be recycled. They are made of Pyrex, which has a different melting temperature than other types of glass such as bottle glass. They will need to go in the trash if they get broken.
Metal cooking utensils can also be placed in the metal recycling bin. It is best to remove any wood or plastic handles or accents before recycling the metal. Plastic and silicone cooking utensils will need to go in the trash.
How to recycle foil roasting pans and pie tins
In theory, aluminum foil is highly recyclable. But the problem with recycling things like turkey roasting pans and pie plates is they are often covered in grease. This food-affected waste cannot be recycled because it can cause problems with the recycling machinery.
If your community accepts aluminum foil for recycling (not all do), and if you are able to completely scrub the grease off your unwanted turkey roasting pans and pie tins, you should be able to put them in the recycling bin. If you cannot, these items will need to go in the trash.
If your community does not accept aluminum foil for recycling, you can also wash these items and use them again. They are great for taking meals to families with a new baby or sick family member. The recipient can recycle or throw away the food container when they are finished with it and not worry about returning a plate or dish to you.
How to recycle tablecloths and cloth napkins
Tablecloths and napkins cannot be recycled, but they can be reused. Donate items in good shape to thrift stores or reuse shops that specialize in craft supplies.
Dying a tablecloth a darker shade can help hide the stains. You can get easy instructions for dying different types of fabric (including cotton, linen and synthetic materials) online.
I keep an old linen napkin around for getting the excess liquid off yogurt (which makes quick and easy Greek yogurt), or straining homemade fruit juice during the summer. It does not matter that the napkin is stained because I only use it in the kitchen.
How to recycle Thanksgiving decorations
Thanksgiving decorations tend to get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas, the two holidays for which people decorate most. But you can still get plenty of cute pilgrims, turkeys, cornucopias with fake food, and fall-themed items for decorating your home and Thanksgiving table.
When the time comes to get rid of these items, you will need to explore ways to reuse them. Ceramic and glass statues and candy bowls cannot be recycled. Wood can be recycled if it is untreated, but decorative items are almost always painted, varnished or stained.
Donate Thanksgiving decorations to thrift stores, or see if friends would like them. Sell them at your next garage sale, or ask your child’s teacher if he or she would like them for the classroom.
You can also go with easy-to-compost decorations like pumpkins, gourds, colorful ears of corn, dry leaves and fresh flowers. They can easily be “recycled” when you are finished with them.
How to recycle broken plates, glasses and other dishware
If someone breaks a plate, drinking glass or other dish at Thanksgiving dinner, you will need to put the shards in the trash. As we explained above, ceramic and glass items cannot be recycled.
There are a few ways you can reuse old ceramic plates, bowls and other dishes (assuming you can get the pieces clean). Put them in the bottom of a flower pot to help with drainage, or use them to make mosaics in cement garden steps.