What Should I do with Old Keys

bunch of keys on white background

Keys are a part of everyday life, they provide security to cars, doors, treasure chests, and numerous other things. There are all sorts of different keys and unfortunately, they aren’t always needed anymore and end up piled in the trash.

Keys can be recycled and melted down for the metals they are made of. They can be tossed into recycling bins like normal recyclable materials or dropped off directly at a waste center that processes metals. Alternatively, old keys can also be used for art projects or as a collector’s item.

There are several fun and easy ways to get rid of the old keys that are forgotten and left in drawers to gather dust. Each one is worth exploring to figure out which option will be the best and easiest according to circumstance and ease.


Recycling is one of the most common ways to reduce waste and get it out of landfills. There are so many different things that go into them and surprisingly, keys are a part of that mass. Fortunately, though, keys are extremely recyclable simply due to the fact that they’re made out of a variety of different metals that can be melted down and reused somewhere else, even potentially for new keys.

Most recycling places can take metals and the keys would go specifically in the mixed metals bins. This is because while keys are commonly made out of nickel, silver, brass, or even a mix of these alloys, they can also be made out of stainless or carbon steel. This is a wide variety of metals that would need to be broken down, melted, and then reused somehow for something else.

When going to recycle keys, make sure that any sort of rubber or plastic tags with the key is removed, and that any signifiers for address and such are removed before the keys are dumped in the recycling. They can be put in just the regular recycling bin which is usually a blue recycling bin depending on what county it is in. But if there is a higher rate of metal waste, it might be better just to take the keys with that metal scraps and drop them off at a local recycling waste center. (Source)

If you’re looking for a recycling center, try looking it up on Google, Google maps, or even Earth911 where it can give specific information according to the material being recycled. Keys would go under mixed metals.


Female hand giving keys from new apartment to male hand on blurred background

While recycling keys is a great way to keep them out of the landfill, there are some other ideas and ways to use the keys that aren’t just tossing them away once they’ve been used and can’t be used anymore. It might be fun just to collect them, especially if there is adequate space to make up a little display for the bunches of keys that someone will accumulate over their life.

If that isn’t something that you are into personally, there might be someone else who is into collecting keys and would love to take the extra old keys off your hands. Ask around, ask friends of friends to see if they would like a whole bunch of random keys, and then pass on that collection.

Do be cautious of this though. Keys to houses, old doors, and other things like that are important and some people like to use old keys as a way to commit crimes. Keeping keys that still access old buildings isn’t advisable under any circumstances, both to keep the blame off of you if something were to go wrong, and to help keep unfortunate crimes, as unlikely or likely as they might be, from happening in the first place.


Up-cycling is one of the methods of reusing and gaining benefits from the material without having to send the materials to a recycling center. It’s arguably one of the more creative ways of dealing with unwanted materials and keys can become a part of this easily.

Crafting with old scrap metal has become a form of art in several different ways, but there is definitely no need to go as in-depth with the metal from the keys and make things if you don’t want to. If you have the materials and tools, it’s easy enough to solder (melt the metal) keys together to make different shapes and sculptures, giving a piece of art a unique look.

Top view of many old rusty keys background. Many keys Access, security, enter, choice, solutions of problems concept, symbol

All it really takes is a good Google search for DIY projects involving old keys, and then there’s a relatively wide treasure trove of ideas and information from others who might’ve had the same problem of having a bunch of old keys and nowhere to put them. If this seems like too much work or effort, then recycling or even offering the keys to someone who would want to use them for upcycling and crafting is easily a way to use them and get them out of drawers or gather dust. (Source)

Different Types of Keys

There are so many different types of keys that knowing what you’re dealing with will help figure out what can be done about reusing, recycling, or disposing of them. It’s important to know what a key is made of so that it can be properly recycled through the correct channels.

Car Keys

Car keys are difficult to recycle since they are a mix of several different components. The metal for the actual key part of it, the plastic that is the casing in some car keys, and the electronics for the locking mechanisms. All of these components are primarily recycled separately and oftentimes it won’t even be necessary to recycle a car key since the key follows the car.

Where possible, separate the plastic from the metal bit and remove the battery for more modern car keys before recycling. Usually, waste and recycling centers will be able to sort and recycle accordingly.

Very Old Keys

Bunch of old keys on green scratched wooden background, close up

Not all keys are equal, meaning there are keys still that would be considered very old with a traditional rounded barrel and pronged approach. Most of them are replicas and very few are still in existence that would actually open a door or a locked chest. These keys are also made of metals that are recyclable and even if they’re not metal, they’re still made out of materials that can go in a recycling bin.

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