We’ve written a whole lot about when to retire carabiners, but what do you do with those old, broken, and worn pieces of aluminum and steel? This post goes over some of the options other than throwing them in the garbage.

How to Recycle Carabiners

To recycle carabiners you have to take them to a scrap metal yard. Or sometimes you can go to the recycler directly and put your carabiners in a specific scrap metal area. The scrap metal place may give you some money for them but it may only be a few cents unless you bring a particularly large load of metals.

Unfortunately, you can’t throw carabiners in your household recycling bin, even though the recycler accepts aluminum cans and carabiners are mostly made of aluminum. This is because normal recycling sorters/businesses aren’t set up to handle the anodization (color) on the carabiners.

Aside: The fire department in my town happened to do scrap metal drives where they would collect metal items as a fundraiser (they would sell to the scrap metal yard). Perhaps there is a similar fundraiser in your town.

A Note About Manufacturers (and safety)

Carabiner manufacturers prefer that you do everything that you can to ensure that retired carabiners do not get into the hands of folks who might not know they should be retired. They’d prefer you destroy the carabiner (scrap metal yard, hacksaw, or throw the carabiner in the garbage). If you want to be extra careful (or are a curious person), we’ve been told that some scrap metal yards will let you watch the carabiners being destroyed in the grinders.

Although we don’t know of any manufacturers that take back carabiners for recycling, the manufacturers do recycle their own scrap metals. While making a carabiner there are metal scraps from the molds and detailing efforts, and occasionally there are also carabiners that don’t pass quality control. Every manufacturer we’ve talked to says they recycle 99% of these scraps — as there is a monetary incentive in addition to the environmental benefit.

Ideas for Upcycling Carabiners

Hanging Climbing Gear

Perhaps the most common use for retired carabiners is to use them as hangers to hold other climbing gear.

  • helmets
  • ropes
  • shoes
  • backpacks
  • water bottles


Storing Common Items

Have a set or a lot of loose items? A carabiner may be the trick to your organization.

  • hair ties
  • wrenches
  • keys
How to Recycle and Upcycle Used Carabiners 1
photos credit to Lifehacker, FamilyHandyMan, NotesFromADogWalker

Hanging other outdoor gear

Think outside the climbing box and hang all of your outdoor gear. Either as individual hangers, or with webbing to hang larger items.

  • life jackets
  • gear in the rafters of your garage
  • sleeping bags
How to Recycle and Upcycle Used Carabiners 2
Photo credit to StoreYourBoard and Krabach

On a camping trip (or in the backyard)

  • while camping in the backcountry, use carabiners to hold your food high in a tree to prevent it from being eaten or attracting animals (like bears)
  • whether inside the house, in the yard, out out camping, retired carabiners are great for hanging hammocks where the risk of causing harm is low (old, worn, carabiners still have a lot of strength – plenty to hold body weight).
How to Recycle and Upcycle Used Carabiners 3
photo credit to @weighmyrack followers @everlast30 and @vulture2600 on Instagram

Storing and Hanging Clothing

Use the carabiners as individual coat hangers or make an entire coat rack to hang items.

  • coats
  • bags / purses
  • belts
  • hats
upcycled carabiner coatrack
Dave Heerschap, from Lander, WY, will also make custom coat racks with your own carabiners and preferred mountain landscape (Tetons, Gunks, Himalaya, etc). 

Note: There are a couple of folks selling carabiner coat racks on Etsy.

upcycle carabiner hanging hats
Photo taken by @weighmyrack at @backcountry_cobblers house

Dog Accessories

Perhaps the second most common answer is to make a dog leach with your retired carabiner. But there’s more than one dog accessory possibility!

  • clip the collar to the harness for better support
  • for dog car anchors
  • clip for the leach to the collar
upcycle carabiner dog accessories
photo credit to NotesFromADogWalker, @scavalicious, and Etsy

Human Accessories

  • hang plants and planters
  • add a handle to a mug
  • make an outdoor swing
upcycle carabiners plant hangers
Photo credit to @buckleybenjamin
upcycle carabiners mug handle swing
Photo credit to OutdoorShopping and FormTech

Donating to Others

  • ask your climbing gym if they have any connections to organizations that upcycle old gear
  • ask the local zoo if they would like your old gear (say for the monkeys to play with) <– this example came from a 7-year-old Reddit post

Note: Do not donate retired gear to organizations that won’t understand this is retired gear. For example, don’t offer worn/broken carabiners to the Boy Scouts.

Summary

The biggest concern is making sure the retired carabiners don’t go to a person (or group) that doesn’t know they’re not safe for climbing.

Otherwise, old, worn carabiners are plenty of strong to hold body weight or other gear. Carabiners excel as repurposed hanging tools, whether your hanging climbing gear, other outdoor gear, or even household items.

Have Another Creative Idea?

Please share in the comments, or send us a note with a photo (our emails and phone numbers are available on our Contact page).


This post is sponsored by REI as part of an Educational / Sustainability Series. This sponsorship means if there are specific products mentioned in the post, we’ll link them to REI’s product pages when possible. Also, if there is a relevant sale period, we'll talk about that too. All words are solely the authors and have in no way been altered because of the sponsored nature of the post.

Other sponsored posts you may find interesting:

  • Sustainable Climbing Ropes
  • Sustainable Climbing Shoes
  • Sustainable Climbing Slings
  • Sustainable Climbing Harnesses


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