Uncertain about how to properly handle your old microwave? You may be tempted to toss it in your regular trash, expecting it to be taken care of by waste collectors, or perhaps even consider dumping it in a nearby dumpster. However, such actions can lead to fines and create an environmental risk.
So, what's the right way to dispose of a microwave? Whether you wish to recycle or dispose of a microwave, there are a few steps involved, and it's essential to be mindful of certain laws and regulations.
This article will guide you on the safe and hassle-free methods of disposing of microwave ovens. It will also explore various options for dealing with an old microwave and how to handle a broken one without legal complications.
Why is recycling old microwaves important?
It wasn’t long ago that recycling was simply a fad. But today, just about every small township to large metropolis has embraced regulations regarding recycling, including products that can pose a threat to the environment, including microwave ovens.
Recycling an old microwave properly is important because these appliances contain electronic components, metals and plastics that can be harmful to the environment if they aren’t properly processed after their use in the home has come to an end.
Take, for instance, a microwave that somehow ends up in a landfill. Rather than being dismantled and its harmful components removed, the toxic substances are left open to leach out into the groundwater, posing a health risk to humans and other lifeforms that come into contact with that water.
There is also the value of the components in a microwave that need to be considered. For example, there are metals, such as copper and aluminum that can be recycled and reused rather than mined as ore and taken through the smelting and processing steps. Many companies specialize in taking those used components and making them part of the new construction process of other products, perhaps even new microwaves. So, it’s not all about reducing health risks – it’s also about conservation.
Electronic waste, also referred to as E-waste, is piling up around the globe, creating a real problem in many areas of the world. Not only is it unsightly, but E-waste also poses a pollution problem. Roughly 90 percent of American households have at least one microwave, so you can see how they can create burdensome E-waste issues, especially given the fact that they only last seven to eight years, on average.
Understand what microwaves are made of
Most of us don’t think about what’s making the magic happen within a microwave oven, but there is plenty going on in there and it is important to know what microwaves are made of. Aside from the obvious outer metal enclosure, which can be recycled, there are also electromechanical components inside.
Perhaps most importantly, microwave ovens include a magnetron tube, which is an oscillator where electrons that help to warm food are emitted. These tubes often contain a toxic substance called beryllium oxide, which is one reason why you can’t just throw a microwave away.
When properly managed in the disposal process, the magnetron poses zero threat to humans, but the fact that the beryllium oxide does pose such a health threat underscores the importance of getting these used appliances to the right places where people know exactly how to handle them.
Understand your local laws and regulations for old microwave disposal
A good rule of thumb for any type of home improvement project is to know your local rules and regulations as they apply to discarding household waste, including appliances like microwave ovens. What laws in your area govern old microwave disposal practices? What are the rules about E-waste in regard to microwave disposal or recycling?
Check with your local code enforcement office about E-waste rules, or go online to the city’s website and look for the latest information about microwave disposal there. To get to the bottom of the issue, make a call to your local governing body (city, township or county) and ask to be connected to someone who has information about how a microwave should be recycled or disposed.
How to get rid of a microwave safely?
Much of the toxic waste being injected into the environment and atmosphere is out of most peoples’ control, so when you have the opportunity to do your part and dispose of your junk properly, it’s a no-brainer to do the right thing. Microwave ovens don’t last forever, so at some point you’ll need to know how to get rid of yours. In some cases, it’s as easy as taking your unit to the dumpster and tossing it. But it is not always that easy.
In most cases, you’re going to find that appliances are considered E-waste by governing bodies, which means there will be rules regulating what to do with old microwave ovens. This could involve special E-waste collection days set up by local garbage collectors, community watchdogs or local governing bodies. Rather than assume that you can throw appliances in a dumpster because there is no obvious signage, due diligence is required to ensure you’re not breaking a law that could get you fined and/or create an environmental risk.
Getting rid of a microwave safely might even include a small fee on your part, but whatever the rules are in your area, be sure to follow them.
10 ways to dispose of or recycle a microwave oven
You don’t want to be the person responsible for introducing something toxic in your local landfill that could harm anyone or anything. Check out our list of the 10 best ways to dispose and/or recycle your microwave.
Donate a working microwave
Some microwaves still have some life in them when the owner decides to get rid of them. Rather than trashing it or having the oven recycled, the best option is to donate it to someone in need. If you want to donate a microwave, check around at local social service groups and see which ones take appliance donations. You might even get a little tax break because of it.
Some organizations will come to pick up appliances being donated, but even if you have to drop them off yourself, your donation will find a home where someone in need can make great use of it.
Microwave oven recycling opportunities also exist where friends, family and colleagues are concerned. Reach out to them either through email, text or social media and let them know about your item that needs a new home.
Take your old microwave to an e-waste recycling center
There aren’t necessarily “microwave recycling centers,” but you will find E-waste centers where you can get rid of all sorts of electronic goods, including microwaves. This is an eco-friendly option that helps you avoid introducing potentially toxic waste to the environment while simultaneously providing a recycling opportunity for the various components in the unit.
One of the specialties of E-waste centers is that they know exactly what precautions to take when disassembling microwave ovens, being careful with the components known to contain potentially harmful substances. They also know where each of the recyclable materials can be sent/sold/exported for use elsewhere.
Anyone wanting to know where to recycle old microwaves would do well to seek out local E-waste centers where they can quickly and safely deposit their old unit.
Drop off an old microwave at an electronic retail store
Your microwave might not be functional, but there could still be parts inside of it that can be used in other microwaves. For this reason, drop off your old microwave at an electronics dealer, whether it’s an electronics retail store or a specialty shop that deals in microwaves, and you can avoid creating unwanted waste.
Some components in a microwave retain their value to people who know how to extract those parts. For example, some circuitry contains gold. While thermal fuses generally have the least amount of value, diodes, fans, shelf brackets and capacitors yield more value. There are also couplers, motors, turntables, transformers and magnetrons that are highly sought-after by specialists who know how to extract and reuse them.
Take a microwave to a local appliance or repair shop
If your microwave has stopped working, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to toss it. In situations where only one part has failed and the rest are in perfect working order, it can be a quick and easy fix for specialists to turn a “broken” unit into a working one and get it back into your home in short order.
In some situations, your unit will have too many broken parts to make it worth refurbishing, but there are still parts that a professional can identify for use in other units. Never take for granted the skills of those who work day in and day out with appliances, as they will have a use for your microwave.
Check out manufacturers’ take-back programs
Think back to when you purchased your microwave. Do you recall a take-back program that offered a quick and easy way to dispose of your microwave? Numerous appliance manufacturers (Bosch, Panasonic, LG and GE are a few of the big ones) are eco-conscious and have established ways to prevent electronic waste from adding to the current waste problems.
All reputable brands have a customer service division that will handle your questions about microwave oven disposal, so reach out to them and ask about your unit. You should get instructions on what is available to you, where you can drop yours off and if there are any trade-in opportunities that offer you a discount on a new unit.
Organize a bulky waste collection
Bulky waste collection programs are often established by neighborhood groups who have resources at their disposal to make an impact on their community. These programs generally provide one or two opportunities throughout the year for residents to get rid of their microwaves, as well as other types of appliances, which are picked up or dropped off for removal and safely redirected to the appropriate places.
Check with your municipal trash services, as many also have bulk trash pickup programs that could handle microwave ovens, making it a quick and easy process for you. If neither of these options is available to you, consider organizing a bulk collection/disposal program of your own. This could be as simple as renting a roll-off dumpster, identifying recycling centers and rallying your neighbors to take part.
Dispose of a microwave with local garbage collectors
Some local garbage collection service providers are focused solely on common household trash, which does not include the collection of any type of E-waste. However, knowing the need for disposal of such items, there has been a push for trash collectors to provide opportunities, however infrequent, for homeowners and business owners to offer up their microwave ovens for collection.
Check around to see what garbage collectors in your area offer pickup of electronic waste and look for an opportunity to get rid of your microwave. Otherwise, you’ll have to seek out recycling opportunities from E-waste collectors.
Rent a dumpster to throw away your old microwave
One of the most efficient ways to get refuse out of your way, whether it’s a long-term garbage collection solution or a temporary one for cleanout projects, is to rent a dumpster. When rules and regulations allow, you can put a microwave in your rented dumpster.
An important aspect of renting a dumpster is making sure you know what can be placed in it. For example, if you have questionable items, such as appliances that you want to throw out, check with your rental company to ensure microwaves are allowed to be placed in them.
Hire a junk removal company
Hiring a junk removal company is an efficient way to dispose of a variety of waste quickly. One of the easiest ways to get rid of an old, broken-down microwave is to hire a junk removal service. This is especially beneficial if you have several large items that you no longer wish to keep and want to responsibly get rid of.
Will your preferred junk removal company dispose of your microwave? Some are not able to specialize in appliance waste, so they’re only going to help you with the trash associated with the usual cleanouts, spring cleaning, remodeling jobs, etc. However, knowing that appliances, including microwaves, are so prevalent in society today, many welcome receiving these items and will recycle them responsibly.
Sell a working microwave yourself
There are many options available to consumers today providing the convenience of buying and selling all sorts of goods, from clothing to cars, computers to workout equipment and just about everything in between. When you’ve got a working microwave that you want to part with, look to online sources to help you.
One of the most popular resources is Facebook Marketplace, where all your local friends and followers can see what you have for sale. You can sell a microwave online at Craigslist, too, as this is a popular place to offload unwanted items to someone in your area. If you prefer to use eBay, but don’t want to go through the hassle of shipping a microwave, consider the “local pickup only” option.
Dispose of your microwave properly in the Chicago area
Do your part to reduce unwanted and toxic waste and seek out microwave disposal options in Chicago that ensure you’re taking the safest possible route. You want to protect the environment for yourself and those around you, so as you research how to properly dispose of a microwave, look for the most eco-friendly option.
Yes, it’s tempting to take your old microwave out in the middle of the night and toss it in a dumpster, but before you do that, check the local laws and regulations your dumpster company has established to be sure that’s not illegal.
Unfortunately, getting rid of a microwave isn’t as easy as discarding most other household trash, but there are solid environmental reasons for that. In fact, taking the wrong approach can get you into legal trouble that could result in fines.
Chicago beats all other large cities in the U.S. with rooftop greenspace, but the city lags behind others in the recycling department, so by doing the right thing when disposing of your microwave, you can be part of the solution and gain some peace of mind while you’re at it.
Where to recycle microwaves in Chicago?
With a population of 2.7 million, Chicago has potentially thousands upon thousands of microwaves that need to be disposed of every year. So, where can you recycle microwaves in Chicago? Fortunately, the city has a solution for your microwave and other E-waste. Check out the City of Chicago website about E-waste.
The site says you can “dispose of your household chemicals responsibly and recycle your old electronics by dropping them off at the City’s permanent facility at 1150 N. Branch Street,” which is two blocks east of the Kennedy Expressway at Division Street and is open year-round every Tuesday and Thursday and the first Saturday of each month.
For more information, check out the residential electronics recycling program regarding the time and date for dropping off your E-waste, including microwave ovens. As the site says, “it’s the law – and it’s good for the environment, too.”
Frequently asked questions about microwaves and their disposal
If you’ve got questions, you have come to the right place. Here you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions about disposing of or recycling microwaves, and the best answers to those questions. If you don’t see yours here, contact us and we’ll have an answer for you.
Can you throw a microwave in the trash?
When we get the question, “can you throw a microwave in the trash,” the first response is always, “no.” First and foremost, regardless of the laws in your area, you should first look into recycling opportunities. Second, microwaves fall into the E-waste category, which means they have parts that could be toxic to the environment if not properly disposed of or recycled.
Just like most other major municipalities, microwave disposal in a trash bin in Chicago is not legal, so don’t do it. Find your local E-waste center and take it there, or look into options for selling it if the microwave is still operational.
Why should old microwaves be disposed of safely?
Old microwave disposal guidelines have been established to protect the environment. Although microwave ovens might not seem like a complex appliance, there are electronic components in them that deserve proper care upon disposal or recycling. Should these components find their way into a landfill, they could leach toxic substances into the groundwater, which is a serious ecological hazard. Recycling allows usable parts of the appliance to be recirculated into new or refurbished machines.
Can I put a broken microwave in the trash?
Your microwave has reheated its last plate of leftovers and is unsalvageable, so the question is, “can I put a broken microwave in the trash?” The answer is, “no.” Even though it is broken, it could be refurbished if put in the hands of a skilled technician. Also, microwaves contain toxic substances that are not allowed in the trash along with general household garbage, because garbage ends up in landfills where these toxic substances are not allowed.
How to dispose of a broken microwave?
If you want to know how to dispose of a broken microwave and tossing it in the garbage bin isn’t an option, consider other methods, such as taking it to an appliance retailer or a certified recycling center that accepts E-waste. You can also reach out to your local garbage management provider and see if they have special pickup days for appliances, including microwaves.
Taking the extra step to dispose of the broken microwave responsibly will help protect the environment and prevent potential health hazards.
Is it safe to leave my old microwave on the street for someone to take?
While it’s not uncommon to see household goods, such as bookshelves, chairs and other knick knacks left on the street corner with “free” sign on them, that’s not a good option for old microwave disposal, as you’re not certain what the person picking it up will do with it, like throw it in a dumpster.
So, where can you get rid of an old microwave? If it is still in working condition, look around for donation opportunities, or sell it. If it is no longer functional, consider recycling it or taking it to an E-waste center.
Are microwave ovens recyclable?
There are many recyclable parts in a microwave, which means microwave oven recycling is quite a common occurrence throughout the Chicago area. That doesn’t mean you can drop it off at a recycling center; you must take it to an E-waste center that specializes in handling the various potentially hazardous parts for safe removal.
What happens to an old microwave if you recycle it?
When you recycle an old microwave, you are putting in motion the reuse of various parts that are still of value. In some cases, the microwave can be refurbished and put back into circulation. In others, recycling means tearing it down, piece by piece, and repurposing the material.
Most recycling centers utilize a mix of machinery and manual labor to dismantle the units. The metals and plastics are sorted and stowed into bins of like materials. The parts are often cleaned, then sent off for processing. Most metal pieces will be smelted and resourced later for a variety of purposes.
Can you put a microwave in a rented dumpster?
This answer depends on the company you rented from. While a dumpster can hold dozens of microwaves, it might not be legal to place even one of them there if the intended use of the dumpster is for the usual household trash or project waste that will be placed in a landfill. Your dumpster rental company will most likely stipulate up front that no E-waste is allowed in their dumpsters, which means all of your electronics and appliances will have to find another avenue for disposal. Always ask before placing anything questionable in your dumpster.
How to get rid of the business microwave?
Whether your microwave is used for home use or in the company break room, the rules/laws regarding the disposal of it are the same. Never throw out your old microwave with the office trash, as it does not belong in a landfill and needs to be disposed of differently than common office refuse. Look into recycling options or have it handled through an E-waste facility.