If you have a home gym, it’s likely you own a treadmill. Too often, this kind of gym equipment goes unrecycled.
Whether you use it regularly or not, your treadmill will eventually stop working. When it is beyond repair, it’s possible to recycle many part of a treadmill.
First, you’ll need to take your treadmill apart. It’s a good idea to find a few rugged boxes to collect and separate all of the pieces and parts. The only tool you need in most cases is a drill to remove screws. There’s no science to it: Just start unscrewing screws and your running machine will come apart.
You’ll end up with five major categories of waste once your treadmill is in pieces on the floor: metal, the running belt, the running board, electronics, and hard plastic pieces.
Metal to Scrap
Exercise equipment has many metal components. You’ll end up with metal support pieces, tiny screws, and, assuming your treadmill isn’t manual, the big motor that makes the whole thing work.
You can either recycle the metal at your local scrap yard or enlist someone to do so for you. Post on social media or electronic/traditional wanted ads that you have metal for scrap and you will surely attract a few people interested in taking your metal. Don’t expect a windfall of money from your scrap and don’t charge your scrap metal delivery person for taking your waste.
Alternatively, you can take the metal to a local transfer station. Add your ZIP Code in Earth911’s Recycling Search to find nearby options.
The running belt is the part that your feet hit while you’re running or walking. As a treadmill owner, you’ve probably replaced this part a few times and loosened it to add lubricant and then had to tighten it back up. The belt is very durable and not easily recyclable because it a composite of several different materials, but it’s ripe for upcycling.
You can cut your running belt into pieces with a utility knife. Use it as a rugged mat in the garage or workshop. Stack a few pieces on top of each other to use as a doormat or a mudroom rug. It’s also great to put under a litter box to prevent litter from tracking around the home. Look around your home for where else you might need a tough mat.
Below the running belt is the running board, usually a large piece of plywood, often painted black. This wood is also great for upcycling into wall art, a table, a desk, shelving, or maybe a kid’s play car layout. If you’re not the crafty type, offer this piece to any artist you know and they’ll make it beautiful or drop it a transfer station for recycling.
Unless your treadmill is completely manual, it will have some wiring and circuit boards under the buttons and screens. The display and control panel along with the wiring can be recycled as e-waste.
Even manual treadmills usually have a battery-powered monitor for tracking your time and distance; be sure to recycle this unit with your e-waste. You can check for e-waste recycling locations near you using Earth911 Recycling Search, just enter your ZIP code.
The last cast-offs from your treadmill are likely to be hard plastic parts. They will take the most effort to recycle or upcycle. The plastic handle grips and the surround for your electronics have worked hard and taken a beating to support your calorie burn: Make an effort to keep them out of the landfill.
Although you won’t be likely to find a plastic resin number on these parts, you may be able to find a local plastic recycler that accepts rigid plastics. It’s a good idea to call a recycler to confirm they’ll accept these pieces before you make the trip to drop them off.
You might also consider offering the plastic components for free on swap sites to other treadmill users whose parts have broken. If neither of these options works, consider upcycling. Look at these pieces for their repurposing potential as well as their artistic potential. Can you paint the handles and transform them into vases? Can you store ropes or hoses inside that empty console in your garage?
Do you plan on replacing that treadmill with a new one? Consider a manual treadmill for a good workout without consuming electricity! (If you make a purchase through this link, Earth911 receives a small commission that helps fund our recycling database.)
Editor’s Note: This article was updated in August, 2023.