Microwave Disposal Considerations

# How to Dispose of a Microwave: 5 Ways

Disposing of an old or broken microwave oven requires care and caution to avoid potential hazards. Microwaves contain components that should not simply be tossed in the trash. We outline the top 5 recommended methods for properly getting rid of your unwanted microwave.

Evaluate the Microwave’s Condition

Before choosing a disposal method, inspect your microwave to determine if it is still functioning or completely broken:

  • Working microwave: If the microwave powers on and heats food, it may still have value for reuse or resale despite exterior scratches or dents. Consider donating or selling it if the unit itself remains in working order.
  • Non-working microwave: If the microwave does not turn on or fails to heat food, it likely requires repairs to components like the magnetron, door sensors, or control board. Assess whether fixing it is worth the cost compared to other disposal options.
  • Severely damaged microwave: Microwaves with substantial interior arcing damage, exposed wiring, broken hinges, or ruptured waveguide covers should not be reused and require proper disposal.

Evaluating the extent of damage helps decide whether recycling, repurposing, or disposal is the best route for getting rid of your unwanted microwave.

1. Donate the Microwave

Donating a working microwave oven is an environmentally friendly way to keep it from landfills. Here are tips for giving away your unwanted microwave:

  • Contact local thrift stores, shelters, schools, or churches to see if they accept donated appliances in good working order.
  • Confirm any requirements around electrical testing or restrictions on unit age or condition.
  • Clean the interior and exterior of the microwave to sanitize for the next user.
  • Remove any personal data, preset programs, or settings from the control panel.
  • Include any original user manuals or guides if available.
  • Safely transport the microwave to the donation center. Many may offer pickup services.
  • Obtain a receipt from the nonprofit for potential tax deduction purposes.

Donating unused microwaves conserves resources and allows less fortunate families access to an essential appliance. When given to reputable organizations, it contributes to community goodwill.

2. Sell the Microwave

Offering a working microwave for sale is another eco-friendly way to extend its lifecycle. Here are tips for selling your used microwave oven:

  • Research current resale prices for microwaves of similar make, model, and condition.
  • List the microwave for sale on classifieds sites, social media Marketplace groups, or apps like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Letgo.
  • Note the microwave’s dimensions, wattage, features, and other specs in your listing to attract buyers.
  • Take appealing photos that showcase the unit in its best light.
  • Describe any signs of wear honestly in your listing to set expectations.
  • Offer local pickup for the microwave or calculate shipping costs if willing to ship.
  • Sanitize and clean the interior and exterior before the buyer collects.
  • Only accept cash payments upon handover or pickup to avoid scams.

Selling quality used microwaves keeps them circulating locally rather than trashing them. It also helps offset the cost of an upgrade. Ensure buyers test appliances before completing transactions.

3. Repurpose the Microwave

Repurposing a broken microwave into something new gives the old unit renewed life. Consider these creative ways to transform microwaves:

  • Air fryer or toaster oven: Remove interior components and install racks to fashion a convection oven for small batches of foods.
  • Shoe sanitizer: Use just the microwave interior as a UV sanitizing chamber for disinfecting footwear.
  • Paint booth: Take off the door and controls to use the cavity for spray painting small hobby items.
  • Drying box: Remove magnetron and transform the unit into a food or object dehydrator using just the low heat of interior lamps.
  • Laptop desk: Gut the interior, leaving just the bottom portion to create an elevated and ventilated laptop workstation.
  • Mini greenhouse: Turn the microwave into a seed starter by lining walls with reflective material and using grow lights.

With imagination and DIY skills, a broken microwave becomes recyclable into clever new uses around the home.

4. Recycle the Microwave

If the microwave is damaged beyond repair, responsible recycling recovers valuable metals and components. Here is how to recycle old microwaves:

  • Contact your local municipality: Many communities offer large or bulk appliance collection services at least a few times per year. Arrange a pickup or drop off timeslot for recycling.
  • Contact electronics retailers: Stores like Best Buy offer free drop off recycling programs for many electronics, including microwaves.
  • Locate a specialty recycler: Search for appliance or electronics recycling companies that responsibly dismantle components. Avoid recyclers who ship e-waste overseas.
  • Organize an e-waste drive: Partner with a recycling center to host a microwave recycling event at your school, workplace, or community venue.

Proper microwave recycling typically involves dismantling units to recover:

  • Metals like steel (cavity), aluminum (magnets), and copper (wiring)
  • Tempered glass (door and tray)
  • Plastics (housing)
  • Refrigerant chemicals from cooling systems

Check that the recycler follows environmental guidelines for safe, ethical handling of e-waste materials domestically.

5. Dispose at a Waste Facility

As a last resort, microwave ovens can be disposed of at a local waste management facility or transfer station for a fee. Here are some tips:

  • Call ahead to verify they accept microwaves and if any restrictions apply (age, size, condition).
  • Review disposal costs—microwaves are often charged as bulky items or white goods. Fees average $10-$30.
  • Prepare the microwave for safe transportation without leaks or spills from chemical components.
  • Handle the microwave carefully when loading and unloading at the disposal site.
  • Follow all safety rules such as traffic flow patterns and no scavenging of disposed items.
  • Obtain and keep the dated receipt from the facility for your records.

While less eco-friendly than repair or recycling, permitted waste disposal is a secure option for unusable microwaves with no salvageable content.

Properly getting rid of an unwanted microwave requires forethought and care. Here are some key factors to keep in mind through the disposal process:

Remove Food and Liquids

Eliminate any remaining food debris, oil grease, or liquids from the microwave’s interior. This prevents leaks and helps avoid attracting insects or vermin to the inactive unit.

Evaluate Capacitors and Batteries

Microwaves contain capacitors that store potentially dangerous electrical charges. Verify capacitors have discharged before handling. Also remove any batteries from digital displays or backup systems.

Check for Leaks or Damage

Inspect under the microwave for any leakage from capacitors or coolant chemicals that may create health hazards. Ensure the unit has no major physical or electrical damage. Assess repairs needed before powering on.

Disable Before Disposal

Unplug the microwave and use lockout features to deactivate it before disposal. This prevents children or others from accidentally turning on the oven when idle. Also tape or lock the door closed.

Transport Safely

Take steps to prevent the microwave from accidentally opening, shifting, or dropping during transport. Secure doors, tape dangling cables or racks, and use moving straps. Have helpers to lift larger units.

Safe microwave disposal requires planning to avoid pollution risks. Evaluate each unit’s condition fully before determining the optimal disposal method.

Are there sustainability benefits to microwave recycling?

Yes, recycling unusable microwaves has several sustainability advantages:

  • Conserves natural resources and raw materials that would be required for manufacturing new units.
  • Reduces energy demands from the production of new components like metals, plastics, and glass.
  • Avoids harmful greenhouse gas emissions created through appliance manufacturing processes.
  • Decreases the volume of e-waste sent to landfills or incinerators.
  • Enables salvaged materials like steel, copper, and aluminum to be reused in other products.
  • Renews usable microwave parts for repair and refurbishment purposes.

Proper end-of-life recycling keeps microwave materials circulating through productive use rather than discarded as waste. Sustainable recycling and reclamation minimizes the environmental footprint.

What precautions should you take when handling an old microwave?

Use these precautions when dismantling or moving an old microwave:

  • Turn off and unplug the microwave before handling.
  • Wear insulated gloves and use insulated tools if cutting wires.
  • Check for residual electric charge in capacitors before disassembly.
  • Discharge capacitors safely using an insulated grounding rod.
  • Check for coolant or chemical leaks that may be hazardous.
  • Prevent exposure to radiation by keeping the door and surfaces sealed.
  • Follow local regulations for the disposal of any hazardous components.
  • Transport large units securely to avoid toppling and injury.
  • Supervise children and untrained helpers when dismantling microwaves.

Exercising care when handling old microwaves reduces risks of electric shocks, radiation leaks, chemical exposures, cuts, and other hazards. Take a cautious approach during the disposal process.

Are there alternatives to throwing microwaves in landfills?

Yes, the following alternatives keep old microwaves out of landfills:

  • Donate – Give working units to thrift stores, charities, or those in need.
  • Sell – Resell functional microwaves locally via classified ads or resale sites.
  • Repurpose – Convert broken units into other functional items like drying cabinets.
  • Recycle – Salvage metals and components at specialty recycling facilities.
  • Trade-in – Exchange old microwaves for rebates on new models from some retailers.
  • Refurbish – Repair damaged parts so microwaves can be resold or donated.
  • Retrofit – Update old microwaves with new features and efficiency.
  • Reclaim Materials – Recover metals, wiring, and tempered glass for industrial reuse.

With some creativity and effort, unwanted microwaves can find new homes rather than sit in a landfill. Explore available alternatives before discarding as waste.

What are the environmental impacts of microwave disposal?

Irresponsible microwave disposal creates negative environmental impacts:

  • Plastic and metal housing improperly sent to landfills are not biodegradable.
  • Toxic coolants, capacitors, and batteries that leak contribute to soil and water pollution.
  • Glass components can break down into harmful fragments when crushed in landfills.
  • Metals that are not recycled require more intensive mining and refining to manufacture new units.
  • Microwave insulation and wiring release harmful chemicals when incinerated rather than recycled.
  • Dumping e-waste abroad shifts disposal impacts to less regulated countries.
  • Discarded microwaves create greenhouse gas emissions from waste transportation and landfill machinery.

Proper recycling and disposal that follows environmental regulations helps avoid these negative consequences. Ethical handling of end-of-life microwaves is key.


Disposing of a microwave oven properly requires planning and care to avoid health or environmental risks. Start by evaluating the unit’s current functionality and condition. Opt to donate, sell, or repurpose working microwaves when possible. Recycle broken units at approved facilities to recover valuable material. Use permitted waste disposal only as a last resort for hazardous microwaves with no salvage value. Following responsible disposal practices minimizes the safety hazards and ecological impacts that can result from microwave e-waste. With more manufacturers and communities prioritizing sustainability, there are increasing options to divert old microwaves to new purposes rather than landfills.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you tell if a microwave is still working and safe to reuse?

Test a microwave’s safety before donating or reselling with these steps:

  • Inspect for damage like dents, broken door hinges, or cracks.
  • Heat a microwave-safe container of water for 1 minute. It should become hot.
  • Open and close the door to check for smooth operation.
  • Verify interior light and turntable operate properly.
  • Make sure no arcing occurs inside when activated.
  • Check for leaking oil or chemical odors.
  • Confirm the exterior remains cool and vents properly.

If all tests pass without issues, the microwave is likely still in good working order pending further electrical inspection.

Does it cost money to recycle a microwave oven?

Microwave recycling costs vary based on your location and disposal method:

  • Municipal or community recycling drop-offs are often free or charge a minimal fee.
  • Retailer take-back programs like Best Buy offer free e-waste recycling.
  • For-profit recyclers typically charge a fee based on the microwave size.
  • Hazardous microwave disposal may involve additional charges at some facilities.
  • Charitable pickups are free but you may need to donate to the organization.

Call or research facilities in your area to learn the costs. While not free, recycling fees are often less than purchasing a brand new replacement microwave.

What steps should you avoid when getting rid of an old microwave?

Avoid these unsafe microwave disposal shortcuts:

  • Simply placing the unit curbside for trash collection
  • Tossing the microwave in a dumpster or landfill bin
  • Breaking apart components without proper tools or protection
  • Letting children play with or tinker with unsecured parts
  • Attempting to dismantle the magnetron without training
  • Discarding hazardous coolants, batteries, or capacitors improperly
  • Selling untested units with potential radiation leaks or faults
  • Donating microwaves that are non-working or severely damaged

Improper microwave disposal risks serious injury or environmental damage. Exercise caution and use licensed services.

Can you be fined for incorrectly disposing of an old microwave?

Yes, penalties can apply if you improperly dump a microwave:

  • Placing electronics curbside outside of sanctioned pickup days may incur littering fines.
  • Discarding hazardous e-waste in household bins violates waste disposal regulations in many areas.
  • Abandoning microwaves or any larger items at unmanned recycling sites often leads to big fines.
  • Illegally transporting lead, mercury, or chemical wastes from microwaves can prompt violations.
  • Authorities may impose fines if you are caught dumping old microwaves in unauthorized areas.

Check your local ordinances and use legal disposal methods to avoid potentially large microwave disposal fines. Act responsibly.

What are some creative ways to reuse an old microwave rather than throw it away?

Get creative with these innovative microwave repurposing ideas:

  • Make a microwave plant propagator for starting seeds
  • Fashion a specialty drying box for herbs or arts & crafts
  • Turn into a safe for storing valuables
  • Make a customized dog treat or food dehydrator
  • Craft a unique clock by replacing glass tray with clockface
  • Convert into a hidden aquarium or terrarium
  • Transform into a stylish storage cabinet for bathrooms
  • Build an emergency Faraday cage
  • Design a retro-inspired Bluetooth speaker system

With clever DIY skills, a broken microwave can be given renewed purpose instead of heading to a landfill. Get inspired!

Summary of How to Dispose of a Microwave: 5 Ways

Safely getting rid of an old or broken microwave requires careful handling but offers several environmentally friendly options beyond tossing in the trash. Start by inspecting the unit and evaluating its condition. Reuse via donation or selling remains the best choice for working microwaves. Disassembly and recycling through specialty facilities allows safe salvaging of materials in damaged units. Alternatively, a broken microwave can become an innovative DIY project with the right skills and imagination. If all other options are exhausted, permitted disposal at a waste management facility is a final fallback for unusable microwaves. Following responsible disposal practices reduces safety risks and environmental impacts. With more manufacturers and communities embracing sustainability principles, there are an increasing number of ethical ways to keep old microwaves from languishing in landfills.