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Can You Recycle Cutting Boards? How?

After using cutting boards there are times that we'll have to throw them away. This article discusses if we can recycle cutting boards and how.

A cutting board with pepper and oil.

 I’ve used a lot of cutting boards in my time as a home cook and as a pizza store manager and delivery driver. I’ve used plastic and wood cutting boards as well as stainless steel work tables. I understand there are glass and marble cutting boards, too, and I would love to see a marble cutting board!

Yes, cutting boards can be recycled. Plastic is largely polyethylene, which is in every plastic piece, so it can be reprocessed. Wood is a little different, but it can be done. It’s accomplished differently, so you can’t put a wood cutting board out with the regular recycling. How are cutting boards reprocessed?

Plastic Cutting Boards

A chopped parsley in a plastic cutting board.

Reusing plastic cutting boards for any length of time isn’t a good idea. Plastics are made from petroleum products in addition to crude oil. Not only are you putting your food on this product, but the acids from the food you’re chopping eat into the finish. This leaves the unsavory nature of the petroleum and oil products in the plastic to leach into your food. It’s not healthy. 

Not only that, but many foods stain plastic cutting boards. Lots of cooks bleach their stained cutting boards, which isn’t a good idea, either. The bleach soaks into the board and mixes with the petroleum products. This is unhealthy in the extreme.

Add to all this the fact that the score marks from knives cut into the plastic. Over time, these tracks attract bacteria that will make you very ill. Lots of cooks put their boards in the dishwasher, while others soak theirs in the sink with hot, bleach-y soapy water. They’ll be clean, but the cleaning solutions also soak into the board, which leaves your food open to contamination.

I have brought this information up so you’ll understand why plastic cutting boards can’t just be popped into the recycle bucket. They can be reprocessed, but you have to take them to the facility yourself. There, they are placed into dumpsters, where special recycling companies pick them up to make them into new products.

Wood Cutting Boards

A wooden cutting board and vegetable salad.

As with plastic boards, wooden cutting boards should be discarded when the knife marks and grooves are noticeable and many. The thing about wood is that it’s still alive, even after the tree is cut down. It expands and contracts when associated with water. It swells in hot weather and returns to normal in cold weather. 

The acids in the food you’re chopping gets into the wood, yes, but it doesn’t stain like plastic does. It’s the knife scores about which you need to worry. On the other hand, if you love your board and want to keep it, wood cutting boards can be sanded down and refinished in five easy steps:

    • Wash the board in hot soapy water to clean it and let it dry for 24 hours.

    • Go to your local hardware store to get 80 or 120 grit sandpaper. Sand with the grain, not against it.

    • Clean the board with a damp (not wet) cloth to remove the sawdust. 

    • Sand the board again using 220 grit sandpaper to get any scratches left by the first sanding. Use a damp (not wet) cloth to remove the sawdust. Let the board dry thoroughly.

    • Wipe down the board with Clark’s, Howard’s, or Clara’s cutting board oil. Let it penetrate the wood for about 15 minutes. Next, rub in a coat of wax for a pretty finish and wipe off the excess. Let it dry for about 24 hours.

If the score marks are too high, then take your board to the recycling facility yourself. They have dumpsters for all types of materials, from metals to porcelain and ceramic to wood of all kinds. Companies dealing with this type of process will pick it up to reprocess it. 

Glass, Marble, Granite, And Stone Cutting Boards

Meat balls with in a granite cutting board.

Glass and stone make some stunning cutting boards. However, they’re not well suited to everyday use. They will dull your knives in no time. It’s best to use these as cheese boards or for rolling out dough. If you want to use them as cutting boards, though, be aware that you’ll have to very frequently sharpen your knives.

Glass can be recycled, although you can’t put it out on collection day. You’ll have to take your cutting boards to the recycling facility yourself. Only certain types of glass can be reprocessed, such as glass bottles (think Coke bottles) and cutting boards. It’s melted down to make other products. 

If you’re tired of sharpening your knives, you can take your natural stone boards to the recycling facility. Stone companies love to repurpose your cutting boards into natural stone building products.