Recycling Mystery: Patio Furniture

discarded patio chairs

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Sitting outside year after year, through the blazing summer sun and the freezing winters, patio furniture has to endure a wide array of extreme conditions. Sooner or later, it’s going to wear out. But can you recycle your old patio furniture? Well, that depends on the materials used to make it.

Recycling Patio Furniture by Material

Patio furniture is made from a variety of materials, each with its own recycling options — or frustrations. While metal outdoor furniture is easy to recycle, plastic furniture is far more challenging. Wood furniture, on the other hand, simply isn’t recyclable if it’s been painted or sealed to protect it from the elements. Below, we’ll investigate these more in depth.

As with all recycling mysteries, we need to include one important note: If your furniture is still in usable condition, consider selling it or giving it away. Most donation centers that accept furniture will also accept patio furniture. You can also use Facebook garage sale groups or apps like Letgo and OfferUp to find a new home for your usable furniture.

old plastic patio chairs

 It’s unlikely your curbside recycling program will accept these items. Photo: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Plastic Patio Furniture

There’s a good chance you’ll find a resin identification code somewhere on your plastic furniture. Look for a little triangle with a number in it. The code indicates what type of plastic your furniture is made from. Most plastic furniture will be made from plastic number 5 or number 2. Due to the size and shape, it’s unlikely your curbside recycling program will accept these items. However, if you have a larger recycling facility in your area, they may accept them, so be sure to give them a call. To search for a recycler in your area, you can use Earth911 Recycling Search — just enter your ZIP code. 

Unfortunately, if your local recycling facility doesn’t accept plastic furniture, you don’t have many recycling options. TerraCycle has an outdoor furnishings zero waste box you can purchase. You’ll then be able to ship the furniture to them for recycling (be sure to fill it only with the materials they designate). However, this option is quite expensive.

Some plastic furniture can be refinished, so that is an option to extend its life. These step-by-step instructions from WikiHow show you how to paint plastic furniture.

rusted metal lawn chair

If your furniture is still in usable condition, consider selling it or giving it away. Photo: Pamjpat, Pixabay

Metal Patio Furniture

Metal patio furniture is not only durable, it’s easily recyclable. Most metal furniture is made from aluminum, steel, or wrought iron. While your local recycler is unlikely to accept furniture in your curbside bin, your city probably has at least one scrap yard that will accept your old metal furniture. Just visit the Earth911 Recycling Search and search by the type of metal. 

Not sure what kind of metal your furniture is? Use a magnet to determine if it’s a ferrous or nonferrous metal (ferrous metals attract a magnet; nonferrous don’t). Then, search for ferrous metals or nonferrous metals with our Recycling Search tool. Be sure to call the facility before you make the trip to verify they will accept your specific items.

Wood Patio Furniture

Unfortunately, wood outdoor furniture isn’t recyclable. Since it’s usually treated with some type of varnish or sealer, it can’t be composted either. You still have some options. You can refinish it, repair it if broken, or break it down and reuse the good pieces to make something new. If it’s too broken or rotten for any of those options, you’ll have to throw it away.

wooden adirondack chairs

You can significantly extend the life of your outdoor furniture with regular maintenance and care. Photo: silverstrike24, Pixabay

Maintaining Your Patio Furniture

While outdoor furniture will eventually need to be replaced, you can significantly extend its life with proper maintenance and care. Regularly cleaning your furniture is a good first step. When using soap to clean furniture, stick to mild detergents and read instructions/warnings carefully. Some soaps can discolor the furniture.

Also, during the seasons when you aren’t using your patio furniture much, it’s a good idea to store it inside or under under an overhang to limit exposure to the elements. You may also want to consider buying patio furniture covers, which, when used regularly, can dramatically lengthen the life of your outdoor furniture.

 

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Brian Brassaw

Brian formerly managed the Earth911 Recycling Search and shared green living tips and tricks on Earth911’s Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Brian also shares DIY projects on Little Pilots Lounge.
Brian Brassaw